Two well-taken second half goals ensured Waitakere United had the perfect warm-up in near freezing temperatures in Ningbo yesterday for Thursday’s Fifa World Club Cup clash with Adelaide United in Tokyo.
Those goals from Roy Krishna and a late Jeff Campbell header followed Allan Pearce’s ninth minute opener and paved the way for a 3-1 win over Zhejiang Greentown FC at the Ningbo Sports Centre.
“It was just what we wanted.” said delighted United coach Chris Milicich. “A 3-1 win over the eighth-best professional team in China. I could not have asked for anything more.
“It was no easy with the travelling and playing on close to the worst surface I’ve ever seen. Add to that the injury situation and having players like Paul Seaman in doubt until kick-off because he had been so sick, it was a great result.
“They did all I asked of them. They kept their shape and discipline and got the result they deserved.”
The opening exchanges were tentative but with Waitakere making the play. A strong Neil Sykes challenge had Brazilian striker Antonio Saraiva limping and out of the game after nine minutes. It showed Waitakere were not holding back against a team who threatened to dominate them physically. The opening goal came following a great cross field ball from Sykes at left back to Pearce wide on the right from where he gathered well and then played a neat one touch ball to beat his marker. With goalkeeper Jiang Ho drawn out, Pearce had a simple path to the empty goal and made it look simple as he slotted from close range.
After Frenchman Benounes Karim had muffed a half chance a minute later, the home side drew level within a minute when from what appeared an offside run when Karim got deep and played the ball back for Wailliton who met it on the half volley to score.
In the 21st minute Pearce played a good ball to captain for the day Neil Emblen but his header was cleared. Pearce also had a hand in perhaps the best chance of the half when he played the ball to Kayne Vincent but in a case of “he who hesitates is lost,” he delayed his shot and the opportunity was gone.
A minute from the break United appeared to have scored their second when the ball was shuffled across the line from a Pearce corner but despite the linesman indicating the goal had been scored, Chinese referee Fan Qi ruled otherwise.
Ten minutes into the second half Waitakere had the goal they wanted. Chris Bale who had made a couple of crucial tackles in midfield, won possession and fired a 40 metre cross-field ball to Pearce who played on to Roy Krishna who controlled well, broke away from his marker and let rip with a shot from beyond the far post which sneaked inside the upright.
Milicich continued to ring the changes and eventually three of his second half substitutes combined to put the game in safekeeping with three minutes to play. Again, it was a superb Bale long ball which found Benjamin Totori wide on the left. He worked a one-two with Daniel Koprivcic before ball was played back to Campbell who finished the move with a simple header into the gaping goal.
Milicich did not risk Danny Hay or Jonathan Perry and did not give Adriano Pimenta any game time. He said later that the game had enabled him to firm up his thinking ahead of Thursday’s game in Tokyo but obviously will not make his selections known until closer to kick-off.
The team are on the bus first thing tomorrow morning for a three and a half hour bus trip to Shanghai from where they will fly to Tokyo tomorrow afternoon.
Zhejiang Greentown FC 1 (Wailliton 11 min) Waitakere United 3 (Allan Pearce 8 min, Roy Krishna 55 min, Jeff Campbell 87 min). HT: 1-1.
Waitakere United: Richard Gillespie, Aaron Scott, Jason Rowley, Neil Emblen (capt), Neil Sykes, Paul Seaman (Jeff Campbell 55 min), Chris Bale, Jake Butler, Allan Pearce, Kayne Vincent (Daniel Koprivcic 54), Roy Krishna (Benjamin Totori 59 min).