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NZF: Statements made on opening day

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Defending champions Canterbury United Pride have been joined in making a statement of intent on the opening day of the National Women’s League by Southern United and Auckland Football, all three earning comfortable wins to kick off their seasons in style.

The performances of Canterbury and Southern were particularly notable, the South Island pair both hitting their opponents for six and keeping clean sheets in the process.

The Pride have claimed four titles in the past six years and appear certain to be among the front-runners again after flexing their muscles at the expense of Capital Football, whose own hopes of pushing for a top-two berth have now suffered an early confidence-sapping blow.

The visitors were very much in the game at half-time in Christchurch though, the Pride taking a slender one-goal lead into the break after Nicola Dominikovich struck midway through the half. But the quality of Alana Gunn’s side began to show in the second period, Bel Van Noorden making it two soon after the restart before Whitney Hepburn helped herself to a double while Jasmine Donald and Britney-Lee Nicholson also found the net.

"The first half was a really even competition but I think we showed our class in the second half and put the game to bed, which was really pleasing," Gunn said.

Capital counterpart Natalie Lawrence was enthused by her side’s first-half showing but admitted the champions had too much to contain in the second.

"I thought we came out and took it to Canterbury in the first half and were a little bit disappointed to be down 1-0," she said.

"We’d seen some real areas that we could fix heading into the second half but it was then a completely different story. You have to give credit to Canterbury for how they came out at us and put away their chances."

It was the same 6-0 scoreline in Dunedin but this time the goals were evenly split across the halves as Southern went on the rampage. Once perennial strugglers, Southern have turned their fortunes around in recent seasons and will feel confident of launching a bid for the final after laying some promising foundations this afternoon.

Shontelle Smith set the ball rolling early on from the penalty spot and it was all Southern from that point on as another five goalscorers - Chelsea Whittaker, Hannah Mackay-Wright, Lena de Ronde, Mikayla Gray and Ruby Anderson - all got in on the fun.

The margin of victory wasn’t quite as comprehensive in Cambridge but 2017 champions Auckland will be satisfied with their efforts nonetheless after sweeping aside WaiBOP 3-0.

Stephanie Skilton put the visitors in front early on and, although WaiBOP had their moments, it always seemed likely that all three points would be heading up the motorway once Katie Duncan provided a second in the middle of the first half.

Britney-Lee Nicholson put the finishing touches to a satisfying day’s work for Nic Downes and his charges late on.

"There’s some basic principles we wanted to embed today as a starting point and I think we did achieve that," he said. "It’s a good start and there’s a lot of positives to take out of it for us."

WaiBOP coach Nico Girard admitted the match wasn’t one for the purists but joined Downes in feeling his side put some promising aspects in place.

"It probably wasn’t a game a spectator would enjoy and there actually wasn’t much created, for me the three goals they scored were quite random," he said.

"I thought it was a strong group effort and I was happy with the progress each individual made over the course of the game - I thought they became more comfortable with what we’re asking them to do."

National Women’s League Match Week One

Southern United 6 (Shontelle Smith pen 2’, Chelsea Whittaker 24’, Hannah Mackay-Wright 32’, Lena de Ronde 63’, Mikayla Gray 66’, Ruby Anderson 88’)

Central Football 0

HT: 3-0

Canterbury United Pride 6 (Nicola Dominikovich 25’, Bel van Noorden 49’, Whitney Hepburn 72’, 84’, Jasmine Donald 75’, Britney-Lee Nicholson 82’)

Capital Football 0

HT: 1-0

WaiBOP Football 0

Auckland Football 3 (Stephanie Skilton 7’, Katie Duncan 22’, Britney Cunningham-Lee 77’)

HT: 0-2

BYE: Northern Lights

For more information on the National Women’s League please click here

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