Canterbury United Pride have responded to their leading rivals in the opening round of the National Women’s League today in Christchurch.
The Alana Gunn-coached team, who have been the benchmark for the competition in recent years with five finals’ appearances in the past five years and three titles, got off to the perfect start when they saw off the challenge of Capital 4-0 in fine conditions at English Park.
The Pride had to sit and wait to get their National Women’s League season underway, with reigning champions Auckland opening their title defence with a 4-0 win over WaiBOP in Hamilton while Southern United were just as good in beating Central 6-1 at Forrester Park in Dunedin on Saturday.
The Pride were not fazed and turned on a special performance for the opening weekend of the historic National Women’s League, which is a double round for the first time in 2018.
Canterbury United Pride captain Annalie Longo got the home team off to the perfect start in the 15th minute. The Football Ferns midfielder, who has played 106 'A' Internationals for the national team, was on hand to finish from close range in a goalmouth scramble to take the lead.
In the 24th minute, the Emma Evans-coached Capital came close to getting back on level terms from a corner kick. The ball came down from on high and landed on top of the crossbar.
The 27-year-old Longo doubled the lead with a goal of even better quality in the 28th minute. Longo started the move around the halfway mark of the English Park turf and followed up down the left flank to finish superbly with her left foot across the face of Capital goalkeeper Courtney Norman.
The Pride took a 2-0 lead into the sheds and there was more to come from the hosts in the second half.
The Capital women, who are led by Football Fern Sarah Gregorius and welcomed experienced Fern Anna Green for the 2018 season, were looking to bounce back in the second half but Longo had other ideas.
In the 46th minute, she went on a direct run up the middle of the park. Longo laid off a superb ball for the Future Ferns Domestic Programme rep Gabrielle Rennie to finish for her first goal of the season.
The Pride had a number of other opportunities in the second half but only finished one of them with Monique Barker putting the fourth away.
Canterbury did not score again, but the afternoon went on to be a forgettable one for the girls from Wellington. Rosie Wild went down in serious pain in the 75th minute and was helped from the field. Tessa McPherson also left the field with an injury to her right ankle.
The Northern Lights sat out the opening round of the National Women’s League with the bye, but the teams to beat at the early stages appear to be Canterbury United Pride, Auckland and Southern United.
National Women’s League Round One Results
Canterbury United Pride 4 (Annalie Longo 15’, 28’, Gabrielle Rennie 46’, Monique Barker 54’)Capital 0HT: 2-0
WaiBOP 0Auckland 4 (Jade Parris 52’, 75’, Sam Muirhead 68’, Lucy Carter pen 71’)HT: 0-0Southern United 6 (Chelsea Whittaker 8’, Shontelle Smith 20’, 28’, Britney-Lee Nicholson 24’, Amy Hislop 50’, own goal 69’)Central 1 (Sophie Crewe 12’)HT: 4-1BYE – Northern Lights
Article added: Sunday 16 September 2018
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