Team Wellington left it late but got up for a 3-2 opening-round ASB Premiership victory over WaiBOP United at a sodden Gower Park in Hamilton on Sunday.
Saul Halpin’s 89th minute winner decided an entertaining match which saw the visitors recover from falling behind twice over the course of the 90 minutes.
After a cagey opening, the game burst into life when WaiBOP United centre-half Adam Luque headed home a Marc Evans corner to put WaiBOP United 1-0 up in the 15th minute.
Federico Marquez almost doubled the lead three minutes later but his curler was well blocked by Scott Basalaj in the Team Wellington goal. With the rain teeming in, Team Wellington got back on level terms when Andy Bevin finished neatly beyond WaiBOP goalkeeper Zac Speedy.
The second half was end to end, with the slippery conditions leading to an open encounter. Both keepers were well worked and the defences did well to delay any further scoring until quite late.
WaiBOP went to the front again with eleven minutes remaining when Ryan Tinsley played in Mark Jones, who kept his composure to fire past Basalaj.
A minute later the scores were level again. Team Wellington pressed forward straight from the restart and substitute Ben Harris knocked the ball home after a spill from Speedy in the wet conditions.
Then came the 89th minute twist when Halpin coolly claimed the winner after Team Wellington broke from midfield. A lengthy period of added time was played, but the hosts couldn’t snatch an equaliser of their own, even though substitute Stephen Hoyle headed narrowly wide from a late free kick.
WaiBOP United 2-3 Team Wellington (half: 1-1)
WB: Adam Luque 15’, Mark Jones 79’.
TW: Andy Bevin 31’, Ben Harris 80’, Saul Halpin 89’.
WaiBOP United: Speedy; Hilliar, Probert, Luque, Cochran; Varela (Ilich 74’), Tinsley (S. Hoyle 90+5’); Molony, Marquez, Jones; Evans (Manko 74’). Subs not used: Caunter, C. Mitchell.
Team Wellington: Basalaj; Hobbs, Robertson, Musa, Neil; Halpin (Villa 90 + 1), Bale (Harris 58’), Peverley, Barcia; Corrales (Gulley 90+3), Bevin. Subs not used: Carr, Higgins.