Just how competitive the new Futsal National League season could prove has been underlined with an even opening weekend in which all six teams earned one win apiece.
Remarkably, each side that was beaten in its first fixture bounced back later to beat the same opponent, meaning they are all now locked on three points. All but two teams were in action as the complete Northern Home Series and half of the Southern Home Series took place across a string of thrilling matches.
With their seasons not starting until October 21, defending champions Canterbury United Dragons and Southern United could only look on with interest but will have little idea of who their main challengers are after such a tight start.
Upsets were the order of the day first up as Hawke’s Bay, Northern and Manawatu all got up over their more fancied rivals in a goal-laden beginning to the campaign. The Bay earned a 4-2 triumph over WaiBOP while a double from Nikola Velkovski helped Northern to a win by the same scoreline over Auckland in the first instalment of the battle of the bridge.
Down in Palmerston North, Manawatu were expected to find the going tough against Capital after losing two of their most influential players, current Futsal Whites Josh Margetts and Jono Steele. But they had obviously not read the script and shocked the Wellingtonians with a 6-5 success, Adam Cowan scoring twice for the victors while Shingo Ina did the same for Capital.
All three defeated sides responded to those setbacks in impressive manner though, particularly Capital, who well and truly turned the tables on Manawatu with a 5-0 win, Steele haunting his former side by hitting a hat-trick. WaiBOP did likewise to Hawke’s Bay with a Bahram Ahmadi brace laying the foundations for a 3-0 win while Auckland and Northern were involved in a ten-goal thriller, the former finally pocketing the points after triumphing 6-4.
Art Twigg – whose siblings Sam and Denny are also in the Northern squad – was unfortunate to finish on the losing side after notching a hat-trick while Brazilian Andre Luiz Pestana found the net twice for Auckland.
Player-coach Marvin Eakins was pleased with the character his side showed in recovering from the disappointment of their opening result but believes there is a lot to work on.
“We had two very different games,” he said.
“We battled in the first game and didn’t really come away with anything. A few silly mistakes cost us some goals and those mistakes carried on into the second game. But we were more clinical in how we finished at the other end so I’m pretty happy with getting six goals – we should win when we do that,” he added.
“There’s a few things to improve on. The main thing is our combinations and getting used to each other. There are a few new players in the team and they will take a little bit of time to gel but we’ve got a few trainings before the next series so we’re looking forward to it.”
The Futsal National League continues in the upcoming weekend with the rest of the Southern Home Series at the More FM Arena in Dunedin.
For the full Futsal National League schedule please click here
Futsal National League Results
Northern Home Series
WaiBOP 2 (Bahram Ahmadi, Kaiea Karennang)
Hawke’s Bay 4 (Liam Shackleton, Tai Barham, Jake Besenyi, Gabe Lorenzo)
Northern 4 (Nikola Velkovski 2, Abdallah Amleh, Daniel Culpan)
Auckland 2 (Josh Margetts, Eduardo Exposito Espinosa)
Hawke’s Bay 0
WaiBOP 3 (Waikato Ball, Bahram Ahmadi 2)
Auckland 6 (Vincent Pineau, Andre Luiz Pestana 2, Stephen Ashby, Eduardo Exposito Espinosa, Anndrey Carpes)
Northern 4 (Art Twigg 3, Oban Hawkins)
Southern Home Series
Manawatu 6 (Lucian Armstrong, Adam Cowan 2, Jerram Tuck, Nathan Cooksley, own goal)
Capital 5 (Miroslav Malivuk, Shingo Ina 2, Lucas Da Silva, Jherson Heredia)
Capital 5 (Miroslav Malivuk, Jono Steele 3, Lucas Da Silva)