Waitakere United won the second leg of the O-League final but it wasn’t enough to win the tie overall.
Hekari United went into the game with a 3-0 advantage from the first leg in Papua New Guinea two weeks earlier.
Englishmen Danny Robinson, Martin Bullock, Neil Sykes and player/manager Neil Emblen all started for Waitakere United in the second leg at Fred Taylor Park, Waitakere City, New Zealand.
The game couldn’t have started much better for Waitakere as Neil Emblen scored a powerful header in the third minute getting on the end of a great delivery from a Neil Sykes corner.
However things took a turn for the worst when a defensive header back to Danny Robinson was short and the English goalkeeper brought down Hekari’s Alick Maemae to give away a penalty. Kema Jack converted the penalty to leave Waitakere needing to score four more goals with 55 minutes left in the game.
Neil Emblem’s side went all out attack in the second half, hitting the woodwork twice and having three shots cleared off the line. One of those shots was by former Barnsley midfielder Martin Bullock (pictured right). The only goal Waitakere could muster was a late penalty by Brett Fisher meaning although they won the game 2-1, Hekari United won the final 4-2 on aggregate.
Hekari United will now represent the OFC at the FIFA Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates this December.
After the game Neil Emblen spoke of his disappointment of not being able to capitalise on the chances Waitakere created.
“We had our chances. It’s gonna really hurt when we look back at the highlights and see how many really good chances we had and how many good balls we put into their penalty area without it just falling for us.
“Even though we won the game it felt like it was their day with the way the ball just seemed to fall for them.
“They were a decent team but from set plays and high balls in to the box they were vulnerable and we didn’t take our chances when they came. When we scored our first goal after two minutes I felt we were gonna do the job but their goal gave them confidence and as much as you want to stay confident knowing you have to score five makes it difficult.”
While Waitakere United will be looking back on the final thinking what could have been, it will still be judged as a successful season as they won the New Zealand Football Conference for the third time by beating Canterbury last month.
The team now has the Kiwi winter off and will be back to start the next New Zealander season in October.
O-League video of the final – Neil Emblem goal 1:28