They may have lost the battle 2-1 to Hyundai A-League leaders Adelaide United at the FIFA Club World Cup, but Waitakere United proved they are very much worthy of being in Japan alongside some of the world’s heavyweight football powers.
Tactically it was close to a masterstroke, undone in the end by two set piece goals. Commitment wise it couldn’t be faulted, with every player running themselves to a standstill. Physically it was draining, with ice packs and strapping in abundance after the match.
Waitakere United coach Chris Milicich was proud of his players post match.
“It may not have been the result we came for but it was as close to the performance I was asking for as you can get. We have prepared for this for a long time and have been building through the past few months towards this day. I am so proud of the players and of the club in the effort that has been put in but desperately disappointed that we couldn’t quite deliver the result.”
“After last year people questioned our right to be here. After this performance they should be applauding the progress we have made and acknowledging the level of performance that can come out of New Zealand and Oceania if given the resources, support and time together.”
Waitakere took the lead after absorbing the expected early pressure from Adelaide when Paul Seaman hooked home from close range after Adelaide keeper Eugene Galekovic couldn’t hold a Neil Sykes free kick.
With thoughts maybe turning to halftime Adelaide responded when Waitakere failed to mark up from a right wing corner. The space allowed Daniel Mullen the chance to head home beyond Richard Gillespie.
The second half followed a similar pattern with Waitakere sitting deep and looking to counter through the pace of Roy Krishna and Allan Pearce out wide. The winner when it came with just 6 minutes to play was another set piece and another one Waitakere will rue not clearing, with Adelaide skipper Travis Dodd nodding home from a tight angle.
The disappointment in the Waitakere dressing room was palpable but so too was the pride in a performance that pitted amateur against pro and this time left the pros knowing they had encountered a genuine opponent and been pushed to the limit.
Regular captain Danny Hay spoke in bitter sweet tones after he had been ruled out of the match with a calf injury.
“Obviously I would much rather have been out there, in what would surely have been my last game at this level but this is not about me, this is about the players that were given the job and I thought did it superbly.
“There were some great performances, and in reality not a bad one. From Richard Gillespie in goal to young Roy Krishna up front, everyone put their hand up and did themselves and the Oceania region proud.”
FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008
Play Off for Quarter Final
Waitakere United 1 (Paul Seaman 34) Adelaide United 2 (Daniel Mullen 39, Travis Dodd 84)
Thursday 11 December
National Stadium, Tokyo
Waitakere United: 1-Richard GILLESPIE (GK), 2-Jonathan PERRY, 8-Paul SEAMAN (9-Benjamin TOTORI 85), 10-Allan PEARCE, 11-Neil SYKES, 12-Roy KRISHNA (29-PIMENTA 75), 13-Daniel KOPRIVCIC (21-Kayne VINCENT 67), 15-Christopher BALE, 16-Neil EMBLEN, 17-Jake BUTLER, 20-Jason ROWLEY.
Substitutes not used: 3-Aaron SCOTT, 5-Danny HAY, 6-Hone FOWLER, 7-Daniel ELLENSOHN, 14-Jeff CAMPBELL, 22- Daniel ROBINSON (RGK),
Coach: Chris MILICICH (NZL)
Cautions: Roy KRISHNA, Jake BUTLER, Christopher BALE
Adelaide United: 20-Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK), 2-Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4-Angelo COSTANZO, 8-Kristian SARKIES (25-Robert YOUNIS 70), 10-CRISTIANO, 13-Travis DODD, 14-Scott JAMIESON, 16-Daniel MULLEN, 18-Fabian BARBIERO, 21-Jason SPAGNUOLO (3-ALEMAO 57), 24-Paul REID.
Substitutes not used: 5-Michael VALKANIS, 6-CASSIO, 11-Osama MALIK, 15-Gyawe SALLEY, 19-Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 22-DIEGO, 23-Michael MARRONE, 30-Mark BIRIGHITTI (RGK), 40-Lucas ANDREUCCI (RGK).
Coach: Aurelio VIDMAR (AUS)
Cautions: Fabian BARBIERO