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NZF: Usual suspects lead the women's way

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

A repeat of last year’s final is already on the cards in the National Women’s League after the sides that fought it out for the 2018 title continued on their winning ways in the new campaign this weekend.

After five weeks of action, the standings are starting to take shape and there are no surprises at the top with defending champions Canterbury United Pride in first place and the Northern Lights, beaten finalists last time, around occupying second.

Both recorded wins this afternoon, Canterbury edging out 2017 champions Auckland 1-0 while the Lights overcame a stubborn WaiBOP 2-0. In the only game to take place on Saturday, Capital recorded their first victory in entertaining fashion with a 3-2 triumph over Central.

But much of the attention was focused on Kiwitea Street, where Auckland were hosting Canterbury in a match featuring two of the competition’s most star-studded teams.

With so much attacking talent on show, hopes would have been high for a goal-fest but one proved enough to win it, golden boot contender Britney-Lee Nicholson hitting the net with a half volley just before half-time.

The Auckland players did think they may have found an equaliser late on when Britney Cunningham-Lee, who is sharing the golden boot lead with Nicholson with four goals, broke through and scored but her strike was ruled out for offside.

"We’re obviously disappointed to lose one of our home games but Canterbury are a very good side and they’ve shown that today," Auckland coach Nic Downes said.

"I thought it was a relatively even game in the first half but in the second half they definitely stopped us doing what we wanted to do so well done to them."

It was a fourth straight victory for the Pride as they extended their perfect record but the Lights are only two points behind after notching their third win.

Northern had to break down a determined effort from the ever-improving WaiBOP at Allen Hill Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore but a goal in each half from Ava Pritchard ensured the hosts would continue to ride on the coat-tails of Canterbury.

"I thought we held the ball quite well and were able to get into good goal-scoring positions but the final ball or the decisions in the final third let us down today," Northern coach Shane Verma said.

WaiBOP counterpart Nico Girard was pleased with the improvement his side showed after the break.

"I think our game got better in the second half, we talked about some things we’d worked on at training and did a better job of executing them in that second half," he said. "But, again, moving forward we have to work on our attacking transitions."

While the result further south in Wellington wasn’t of as much significance to the title race, there was no lack of entertainment as a pair of sides still searching for their first wins served up a thriller.

Goals from Football Ferns striker Emma Rolston and Kelsey Wilkinson put Capital in control by the break but Central captain Mikaela Boxall was not about to let her team get rolled over without a fight.

Boxall slotted home from the penalty spot just before the hour to get Central back in it and they would have had thoughts of kicking on to claim all three points when Boxall struck again with 15 minutes remaining.

Their hearts were to be broken late on though when Capital were awarded a penalty and skipper Katie Barrott tucked it away.

"We’re feeling pretty stoked to get the three points," Capital coach Natalie Lawrence said.

"I said to the girls after the game that winning is a habit but so is losing, so it’s good to break that habit. I think we made it pretty difficult for ourselves in the end. But it probably couldn’t have been written any better that our captain scored the winning goal."

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

National Women’s League Match Week Five

Capital 3 (Emma Rolston 27’, Kelsey Wilkinson 45 + 1’, Katie Barrott pen 88’)

Central 2 (Mikaela Boxall pen 57’, 75’)

HT: 2-0

Northern Lights 2 (Ava Pritchard 16’, 80’)

WaiBOP 0

HT: 1-0

Auckland 0

Canterbury United Pride 1 (Britney-Lee Nicholson 42’)

HT: 0-1

BYE - Southern United

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