football · NRFL · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division Rd 5: Eastern Suburbs vs Manukau United 3:2

All good things must end!

Round five saw the end of Manukau’s unbeaten run with an extremely tight match that the hosts decided in their favour.

In the absence of any numbers, stats and graphs this is another issue of FootballIMPRESSIONSblog.

It looked to me as if this match could have easily gone either way.

Eastern Suburbs had one more huge chance to score in the 35th minute but Manukau had several more that went begging. The last of them came and went in the dying seconds of match time (about 96th minute) and could easily have brought the equaliser.

These 7 or even 8 minutes of added time were necessary because of many prolonged injury pauses in the match mainly after Suburbs had retaken the lead early in the second half.

Manukau will rue their unused chances as well as the way in which Eastern Suburbs exploited the few defensive “untidy” moments, especially the hosts third goal after they had just been reduced to 10 men (sin bin).

At least a late converted penalty kept the losing margin to the smallest possible size.

(I expect video footage of this match to become available during the week on Manukau’s new Youtube channel)

My summary of this match – from Manukau’s perspective – would be “beaten but not broken”.

Although this will be no real consolation for the South Aucklanders, it is still worthwhile to report that their Reserves team recorded their fourth win (2:0) in as many matches this season and therefore continued their perfect start to their own competition.

This result is very flattering for the hosts as they made it hard for themselves with a red card as early as the 16th minute and as Manukau subsequently dominated most of this match with almost all of the action happening in and around the Eastern Suburbs penalty area.

However, Manukau being somewhat generous in letting chances to score pass by unused as well as a sterling performance by the Eastern Suburbs Reserve keeper, who made several great saves, kept the final result “honourable”.

Here are a few snapshots of this match:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


in only 3 days (ANZAC Day) the next round will be played out with Manukau United playing host to Glenfield Rovers at Mangere Centre Park.

We will see

football · match analysis · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division Rd 4: Manukau United vs Central United 4-3


The dream lives on…

Last Sunday Manukau United hosted their first “proper” home game at Mangere Centre Park. The visitors from Sandringham were Central United – one of the favourites to take out the 2018 title.

Given what had gone down in the preceding week – weather wise I mean – it was a relief that neither rain nor wind was a factor during this match.

The new flags were flying, the club merchandise was ready to be sold and the Grandstand was pretty full and buzzing with expectation.

P1090168                        P1090147

NRFL Premiership football in South Auckland – brilliant.

The spectators were treated to … well … a spectacle of high energy and high skills fueled top level football by both sides.

It turned quickly into one of the best matches I have had the good fortune of witnessing in a long time!

( you will find excellent video footage on Manukau United’s Facebook page!!)

The Dynamic Match Chart below will take you through the 98 minutes (or so) of combined game time.


MUvs CU1

Manukau United were immediately off to a strong start and we saw 3 or 4 (can’t remember) corner kicks inside the first 3 minutes. A medium Quality shot (C2SOT) was stopped by visiting keeper David Masters after only 40 seconds on the clock.

Then it was Central who crossed the field to put some pressure on the home team but only a weak shot from just outside the penalty area and a Free Kick from further out that was safely punched away by Manukau keeper Jono Mannes came of it.

The home team drew first blood with a shot that was deflected on its way past Masters and so the 1:0 lead for Manukau was officially an own goal.

Only 2 minutes later Central restored the balance with a shot that can only be described as “unstoppable” (i.e. C1SOT) : 1-1.

A medium Quality Shot followed soon but Mannes had it under control.

The next 15 minutes belonged to Manukau who placed a couple of weak shots (C3SOT) and another couple of off target efforts.

When I say “belonged to” I mean penetrating the opposition’s penalty area in a reasonably threatening manner (i.e. “PRESSURE). That does not mean that Central did not take the match forward themselves – just not quite into Manukau’s danger zone.

Still, it took a flying intercept by Jono Mannes to defuse a gnarly moment just before the half hour mark.

The final 15 minutes of the first half then saw the pendulum swing towards Central who managed to take the lead in the 34th minute with another cracking shot that also swerved quite a bit and thus put it past the reach of the flying figure of Mannes.

The three minutes before this shot and the 6 minutes immediately after were the only intervals when Central enjoyed a clear territorial advantage (PRESSURE) over the hosts.

Manukau, however, with a High Quality shot (C1SOT) of their own just before the half time whistle, poured cold water on any notions of Central “possessing” this match to death:

2-2 after 45 minutes of hugely entertaining box-to-box football of the highest quality.


The Dynamic Match Chart for the second half is probably a bit deceptive in that Central looked more dangerous than the graph might suggest. However, Manukau United did dominate penalty area actions (PRESSURE) for the first 18 minutes of this second half. Their reward was the 3:2 lead in the 54th minute as well as a raft of other chances before and after.

Central was clearly not in the mood to leave any points at Centre Park and suddenly produced a burst of dangerous situations themselves, culminating in the 3 -3 equaliser in the 64th minute.

It was around that 65 minute mark that it looked as if this match could take yet another twist as Manukau keeper Mannes went down and needed some serious attention from his team’s Physio. Just as the Reserve keeper was taking off his bib and putting on his gloves, Mannes demonstrated that he is not just a VERY good keeper but also “tough as old boots” as he eventually managed to get back up and then played through the remainder of this tense match.

His cause was helped by the fact that his team mates were able to control the game until the final whistle from there. Central United kept looking threatening until the last second but they were not allowed to take even one more shot on target.

In fact, a Manukau corner kick looked as if it would sneak straight in under the crossbar but it touched the woodwork instead – possibly helped by the glove of David Masters who had it covered – just.

In the 84th minute the Mangere Centre Park Grand stand erupted into delirious cheers. Manukau United had just scored the 4:3 and retaken the lead for the third and final time in this match.

Central United was beaten.

After four match days, Manukau United still remain unbeaten with 2 wins and 2 draws (a feat only – almost –  matched by Waitakere City with 3 draws and one win) and sit in the upper regions of the table with 8 points to their name.

What made this day even better for Manukau supporters was the fact that their Reserves team managed to make it “three for three” from their campaign so far.

They comprehensively beat Central Reserves 5-1 in the curtain raiser (HT 2-0).

This match was very entertaining in its own right and both teams – despite the clear cut result – played with heart and skills. Central made it difficult for themselves with a penalty (converted for the 4-0) and a subsequent red card for the last 30 minutes of the match. Still – to their credit – they kept playing and fighting until the end and capitalised on a defence “moment” that allowed an unmarked Central player to bang the shot into the net from close range for the final score of 5:1.

However, they had more chances that went begging and they also did not get past Manukau’s keeper Dvorak who produced a solid save when Central were being awarded a spot kick themselves late in the match.

Here is a brief video of the Reserves high lights (apologies for the terrible picture quality on this occasion)

In total that makes it now 7 matches that Manukau United NRFL teams have been undefeated (their ENTIRE history as a club… as you know… milking… milking…).

I am starting to feel that I am witnessing something truly remarkable here at Manukau United. There is a palpable level of enthusiasm but also determination matched by top shelf organisation and presentation that is… remarkable.

Come and see for yourself.

Their next home game is on ANZAC day against heavy hitters Glenfield Rovers.

How long can this run continue?

We will see…

football · goal keeping · NRFL · officiating · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division Rd 3: Western Springs vs Manukau United 1-1

Then there were … two!

Unbeaten teams in the 2018 NRFL Premier Division after round 3, that is.

Only Waitakere City FC (3 draws) and newcomers Manukau United (1 win and 2 draws) can boast an unbeaten run after three matches have been played out thus far.

The late Saturday afternoon match between hosts (and also newly (re-)promoted) Western Springs and the South Auckland visitors was a quite tense and fast paced action filled affair that could have gone either way, to be honest. Especially the last quarter saw almost frantic box-to-box action and both teams had quite a few more opportunities to score than the modest 1-all draw suggests.

It was Manukau United who took the lead in the first half before conceding relatively late in the match (82nd minute) the equaliser.

The match was played on a damp turf although the match itself did not see any precipitation.

Both keepers had an active role to play with Manukau’s Jono Mannes repeatedly providing a display of undisputed aerial superiority. Western Spring’s keeper Toshiaka Narita (who, I am sure, I saw on Onehunga Sports’ bench the previous week) also performed very strongly and both goals cannot be seen as either goalies’ responsibility – in my personal perception and opinion.

HERE is a brief video with both goals – so you can decide for yourself.

With this draw. Manukau United still remains unbeaten in their entire history as a club (I said in previous blogs that I would milk this for as long as possible) as their Reserves team also produced a strong performance in their second outing this season to record a 1-0 victory over “Springs” and thus boasting a perfect 6 points start to their first ever season.

Here is  Manukau’s match winning shot

This was an exciting game to watch as well as Western Springs pulled out all the stops in their quest to avoid going down to the visitors. It is not that often that you see both goal keepers in front of the same goal. They came close to scoring an equaliser but…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I just want to mention a most impressive display of officiating (both matches, actually) that was even handed and solid in every possible way. This was even more important on this occasion (Reserves match) as we saw proof that it is simply not fair to expect a team’s substitute player to maintain complete objectivity in a tight game like this one when asked to signal off side situations etc. against his team mates correctly.

Coming Sunday, Mangere Centre Park will see Manukau United’s first proper home game with Central United paying a visit .

Will Manukau’s – heroic and history making – unbeaten run continue against a rampant Central United?

We will see.

football · ISPS Handa NZ Football Premiership · match analysis · match stats · Pressure · Quality Shots · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

ISPS Handa New Zealand Football Premiership Final Auckland City FC vs Team Wellington 1-0

On 1 April the Final of the NZ Premiership took place at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium. If this was as “Grand” as its billing suggested will be up to the spectators to decide.

Auckland – already the “minor Premiers” after the regular season overcame their Wellington rivals after losing the last two finals to them.


1st half:


As you can easily see the first 45 minutes was completely bereft of any significant shots on target and the second High Pressure moment for Auckland’s keeper came from a back pass that took forever to be cleared out.

That was it.

2nd half:



The second half was a bit more engaging. First Team Wellington created some sustained territorial advantage – without creating any significant actions, though.

It was Auckland who had the first chance but Wellington’s keeper Basalaj kept the shot from inside the 6Yard box  out.

After that neither team did much noteworthy in front of their opponent’s goal for the next 20 minutes.

The last 12 minutes of the match, that seemed to be destined to go into Extra Time, belonged to Auckland City who – finally – produced a C2SOT (saved), a C1SOT (goal) as well as a couple of shots from 1-1 situations (one also from inside the 6 Yard box), which both were saved by Basalaj, who had a strong game but could not completely compensate for his team’s weaker performance in the last 12 minutes of this match.










football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · officiating · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Premier Division Rd 2: Onehunga Sports vs Manukau United 1-3

Four teams have remained unbeaten after two rounds (approx. 9% of the season) of the 2018 NRFL season: Glenfield Rovers (2 wins), Birkenhead United (1 win/ 1 draw), Waitakere City FC (2 draws) and … wait for it … Manukau United (also 1 win/ 1 draw).

NOT an April Fool’s joke!

The match between NRFL title defending (and current Chatham Cup holders!) Onehunga Sports and newbies Manukau United was anything but the clear cut win for the favourites ( as convincingly predicted in social media before the match).

True, Onehunga dominated possession and territory throughout most of this match (15 High Pressure moments =  high number)  BUT they did NOT register even a single Highest Quality Shot on target (C1SOT) NOR a single shot on target from inside the 6 yard box (6YBSOT) NOR a single shot on target from a 1-1 Situation (1-1SOT). A mere 2 medium quality SOT (C2SOT) could be produced by the reigning champions. One was stopped by Manukau keeper Mannes and the other one headed away on the line by a MU defender.

The first half ended goalless.

Onehunga Sports’ singular goal came from a penalty that sent Manukau’s keeper the wrong way for a leisurely kick into the opposite corner.

10 minutes later Manukau converted a penalty of their own in a somewhat more forceful fashion by Andre Estay.

Another 10 to 15 minutes later Manukau’s goal getter Sanni Issa struck twice in the space of 3 minutes with a couple of beautiful goals and so the newly promoted/formed Manukau United remained unbeaten in their ENTIRE club history

(let’s milk this as long as it lasts!)

HERE is a video of all 4 goals

and here are some pictures (keep in mind the date on which this blog is published!)

Time to score some more points:



Easter Parade (soundtrack HERE)


last minute adjustments to the goal



a man and his ball


here is the link to the sound track for this next sequence of pictures


and a more grounded approach



Where are the damned points? Can anyone find them?


meanwhile: filming of “the Exorcists remake” was under way as well


the meeting of the keepers



Happy Easter everyone on this fine 1 April 2018










































football · goal keeping · NRFL · Uncategorized

Wet’nWild in the West – NRFL Premier Division Rd 1 Waitakere City FC vs Manukau United

P1080987No matter what the outcome of the match would be, history was sure to be made on Saturday at Fred Taylor Park as the home team Waitakere City FC met with the NRFL’s newest club Manukau United.

You will probably already know this: Manukau United was born out of the amalgamation of Manukau City AFC (promoted to Premier Division after 2017 season) and Mangere United (Division 2) and this was the new club’s first outing in an official NRFL competition.

The weather gods seemed to appreciate the significance of this occasion and added some dramatic flair to the proceedings with rain, more rain, then some extremely heavy rain… and thunder for good measure.

By now you may be wondering “where are the numbers and stats”?

Well – the pre-match excitement made me actually forget some essential tools needed to note down KPIs and such. Secondly, the rain was so heavy that it would have been impossible to write down anything for large junks of the match anyway.

So, let’s call this the FNB IMPRESSIONS only special edition.

It was my impression (and therefore quite possibly skewed perception and subsequently flawed memory) that overall Waitakere City produced more mayhem in front of the South Aucklanders’ goal than the other way round. I seem to recall at least two sterling saves by Manukau’s keeper Jono Mannes and another two tight situations in the first half alone.

The most salient WCFC performance that stuck in my memory banks came from Dylan Manickum, who was up to all sorts of mischief inside and around Manukau’s penalty area. Once, Mannes himself had to politely escort Manickum out of the danger zone in front of his goal!

Thanks to tenacious defending and high level goal keeping Manukau recorded their very first clean sheet half – ever – and Waitakere must have been somewhat disappointed not to be ahead.

Two – no three – things about the second half are still with me at the time of writing of this blog.

First, Manukau United’s first ever goal in NRFL Premier Division in the 50th (?) minute, scored by Sanni Issa. It was a skilful header looping its way just out of reach of the Waitakere keeper and into the net. (you can enjoy this moment HERE)

Second, did I mention the torrential rain!?

Third, the heartbreak for the visitors, who had withstood the Waitakere onslaught during the entire regular match time, when Waitakere’s Steve McDonald – in the 93rd minute of the match – spoiled the newbies’ perfect start to their first season with the home team’s last gasp equaliser from inside the 6 yard box.

The subsequent expressions of despair on the faces of players and supporters of Manukau United as well as the jubilations by “the men in black” and their home crowd were both evidence of how desperately close the visitors had come to score their first ever away win.

Oh well, over the past few years I have come to expect football games to last closer to a total of 100 minutes with stoppage time included and this match was no different. It is a moot point whether the additional time had been “excessive” or not on this occasion. The fact is that a game lasts until the final whistle – whenever that one is blown by the official – and that’s that.

Stepping back and relying on my shonky human memory alone I would think that – in the balance of the entire match – Manukau United could be happy to walk off the pitch undefeated, despite their understandable disappointment about conceding in the dying seconds of the game (Recency effect and Simulation Heuristic at play here!). Waitakere City should also be very happy to have a point on their balance sheet after needing about 96 (?) minutes of actual match time across both halves to finally score a goal.

Speaking of impressions – having been fully immersed in the observation and analysis of NRFL Div 2 and Div 1 – and then Div 2 again –  between 2015 and 2017 – I was duly impressed by the level of skills and intensity on show. Prems – to me – felt like not just a simple linear progression from the lower divisions but a real extra step up.

I certainly enjoyed my first taste of 2018 NRFL Premier Football and the visiting team should not be too disappointed either. After all, (tongue in cheek!) Manukau United remain undefeated for their entire history as a club.


This is particularly true as the Reserve teams also met before “the main show” and it was then and there that Manukau United opened their club history books with a convincing 4:2 win over the Waitakere City Reserves side.

This match on field number 2 (which, by the way, looked in better condition than the number 1 pitch to me) was also played in varied weather conditions, ranging from damp to wet. Within the opening 30 minutes Manukau raced out to a 3:0 lead with the club’s first ever competitive goal scored via a nicely converted penalty as documented in these pictures for future South Auckland history buffs.

I was very impressed by the rather beautiful combination football on display that meant that Manukau looked like the certain winners of this match by half time.

Waitakere City, however, came out of the sheds with more intent and started to crowd Manukau’s goal mouth area with force. Especially high balls (from corners, free kicks and crosses) proved to be dangerous as twice in quick succession Manukau’s defenders and keeper came up short to make it a 3-2. Then it seemed as if Waitakere’s comeback would be complete as they got a penalty of their own awarded. Yet, the subsequent shot from the spot went whizzing past the wrong side of the goal post.

This seemed to re-energise the visitors from South Auckland who started to exercise a bit more control over proceedings from there and finished the match in style and with a fourth goal of their own to seal Manukau United’s inaugural victory on an official competition field of play.

There you go – an emotive opinion piece based on nothing more than dubious memory, conjecture and assumptions. Here – in FNB – who would have thought!

Hope you enjoyed it because we will return asap to the dry world of data and KPIs.


Next stop: the reigning Champions of Onehunga Sports await on Good Friday

football · goal keeping · ISPS Handa NZ Football Premiership · match analysis · Pressure · Quality Shots · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

ISPS Handa NZ Premiership Semi Final Auckland City FC vs Eastern Suburbs

The first Semi Final saw perennial minor Champions Auckland City FC go up against Eastern Suburbs (Franchise issue) who, in their second year in this competition, managed to break into the top four positions that enable a team to take part in this little end of season tournament (unless you are the Wellington Phoenix Reserves – then it does not – don’t even ask…).

The final result was a clear cut 4:0 win for Auckland City and a date with Team Wellington in the upcoming Grand Final of the ISPS Handa Premiership.

As you can see below in the Dynamic Match Chart, Auckland (uncharacteristically?) took the game quite willingly into ES’ penalty area for most of the match.

The first half, however, did not yield any actual shot ON target for ACFC. The goal frame hit from a Free Kick by E Tade would have excited a lot of spectators (that’s a relative term these days with half of even the Grandstand at Kiwitea Street seemingly empty) and commentators. This mainly, because a mix of Saliency Effect and Simulation Heuristic would imbue such a moment with an aura of significance that is greater than it objectively deserves – being an OFF target shot (although by a small margin only) and all.

Eastern Suburbs’s KPIs suggest that they deliberately pursued a classic counterattacking strategy and it nearly worked for them as they initially did not even need a goal keeper despite Auckland paying relatively frequent visits to their penalty area. Depending on who you ask, that indicates pretty solid defending … or “unlucky” finishing.

It also nearly worked because it was ES who had two shots ON target to their name in the first 45 minutes. One of them was a high Quality shot (C1SOT) while the second one was still a decent effort (C2SOT). Both, however, were successfully stopped by Auckland keeper Zubikarai.


The first 12 minutes of the second half continued in the same mould until a somewhat unlucky situation right at the inner edge of the Eastern Suburbs penalty area lead to the dreaded call by the official (who is not exactly known to hesitate when it comes to showing a card of different colours or pointing to the spot). The subsequent penalty kick – including a few idiosyncratic body twitches by Tade along the way before connecting with the ball – sent ES keeper Caunter into the wrong corner.

Again, this episode demonstrated nicely why it is VERY hard to pull off a genuinely successful counterattacking strategy: sooner or later a moment like this is very likely to happen if you allow your opponents to take up camp inside your penalty area.

The DMC clearly shows how ES now switched into attacking mode as they had to chase the game, while Auckland now tried to fall back onto their tried and proven game of “magic triangles” inside their own half.

Between the 60th and 71st  minute, however, ES had the bit between their teeth and tried to force an equaliser. Yet, no shots on target ensued – just a couple of situations where Auckland’s keeper Zubikarai was forced to first smother a ball and shortly after clear another ball out of his domain.

Auckland’s second shot ON target by McCowatt was a screamer (C1SOT) and left Caunter little chance to save it, thus doubling the score line to 2:0.

ES continued to push forward.  They really had no other choice now being two goals behind and with about 20 minutes left. Their “reward” was a dangerously chased down back pass and a high ball in front of the goal (technically, a C3 shot as the ball’s trajectory would have taken it into the net unless interfered with). Both situations were solidly dealt with by Zubikarai – proof that even Auckland sometimes actually need a bona fide goal keeper instead of an 11th Tiki Taka player.

What was not solid, however, was another harmless looking shot from just inside the 6 yard box that slipped through Zubikarai’s gloves and made its way towards the back of the net.  Thanks to quick thinking – and squirming – he just managed to avoid one of “THOSE” moments by grabbing the ball on the white line – but definitely not behind it. Close call!

The rest of the match belonged to Auckland with a shot from inside the 6 yard box in the 87th minute (again Tade) that made it past the ES keeper and then took a deflection by another ES player on its way into the net for the 3:0.

Adding insult to injury in stoppage time, a slapstick like moment gifted possession to Dalton Wilkins  who thundered it into the net for the final score of 4:0.


And that was that. Auckland took 4 shots on target and scored 4 goals.

We will see what happens in the, by now traditional, Grand Final between them and Team Wellington.

football · ISPS Handa NZ Football Premiership · match analysis · match stats · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

ISPS HANDA Premiership Round 18 Wellington Phoenix Reserves vs Auckland City FC: 0-2

As I had an afternoon with not much else to do I thought to myself:” Why not waste a couple of hours by watching the televised match between the competition’s official non-competitors (that’s not a put down – it’s in the rules!) Phoenix Reserves and serial Champions Auckland City FC ?”

And the match did not disappoint in that it was a VERY one-sided game, indeed.

The only “surprise” was the fact that the match ended with a modest 2- 0 result instead of a double, triple or even quadruple of that margin. Oliver Sail’s excellent shot stopping and Auckland’s strikers’ generosity in regards to wasting prime opportunities made this relatively narrow result possible.

The following Dynamic Match Charts and the KPI Summary Table are pretty self-explanatory. Therefore I will refrain from any more commentary beyond the actual data.

DMC explanations

DMC AC vs WP 1DMC AC vs WP 2

AC vs WP table



































football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Div 2 Vacancy Playoff: Onehunga Mangere 2-0 over Beachlands Maraetai in second match

playoff 2 table


DMC full explanationsPlayoff 2 DMC1Playoff 2 DMC2


FNB pre-match prediction for deciding re-match after leg 1:

80+ % probability for a BM win in regular match time if KPI pattern is repeated


As we now know, the match ended actually with a rather convincing win for OM, instead.

Here is why:

Quick Summary

  • The first and second halves of the match were significantly different with BM being more threatening in the first half but being mostly dominated by OM in the second
  • OM AND BM dominated (i.e. Pressure) an almost equal amount of game time with 42 minutes (44%) and 39 minutes (41%) respectively with 15 minutes (15%) of equilibrium between both sides across the entire match.
  • BM achieved a modest advantage across the entire match in regards to creating goal scoring opportunities with 10 to 12 High Pressure situations (BM 55% to OM 45%).
  • OM produced 7 quality shots (3x C1/2xC2/ 1x 6YB/1x 1-1) on target (70%) – 5 of which were saved by the BM keeper.
  • BM produced only 3 quality shots (1xC1/ 2x C2) on target (30%) – all 3 of which were saved by the OM keeper.
  • BM keeper Karam attend successfully to 3 non-SOT related High Pressure (3 successful = Reliability 100 %, which is an extremely high value)
  • OM keeper Connolly had to deal with 9 non-SOT related High Pressure situations (7 successful = 78 % Reliability, which is a moderately high value)
  • OM’s KPI advantage in regards to Quality Shots on target suggested a (clear) win for them (which promptly eventuated)
  • BM keeper could not compensate for his team’s KPI deficit while OM keeper could successfully support his team’s KPI advantage.


Unlike the first leg, this time, the objectively stronger team (i.e. OM) did win the match as the first match’s KPI pattern was NOT repeated but was fully reversed in regards to Quality Shots on target, instead.

VIDEO HERE (due to technical difficulties with one camera no action in front of BM’s goal could be included except for OM’s second goal – apologies for missing out OM’s first goal as well as some great saves of Jared Karam despite injury!)


This second match started the same way the first had mostly unfolded : BM attacking forcefully and OM defending and – successfully – preventing shots on target from being taken.

The first 15 minutes clearly belonged to BM who peppered the OM goal mouth area with crosses and high balls and Free Kicks leading to a couple of somewhat anxious moments but nothing came of it.

And then BM seemed to … run out of steam as OM took the initiative – without initially producing anything threatening of their own.

In the 23rd minute BM showed up again but a good save by OM keeper Connolly preserved OM advantage.

Apparently, you see, the away goals rule applied after all in this play-off and as the first match had been OM’s “away” game the leg 1 one-all draw meant that a goalless draw in the second match would be enough for the Mountain Men. (I still haven’t seen any official NRFL/AFF communication on this issue or the second game beyond a tweet).

Anyways – apart from one more threatening high cross into the OM penalty area that was it for BM for the rest of the first half.

Well, on the score sheet, that is. It looked very much as if the men in blue had scored the lead in the 29th minute as trick shot zoomed past the OM keeper. Very luckily for the Mountain Men, the flag for offside had gone up – so no damage done to their re-promotion hopes.

The 32nd minute saw the only proper shot attempt from a Fast Break/ 1-1 situation in this entire match but BM’s keeper Karam was onto it with a strong save.    He got injured in the process but eventually bravely hobbled and limped on until the whistle stopped proceedings for the first half.

And so the first half of game two ended exactly like the first half of game one, namely with a 0-0 draw.


This second half developed VERY differently than any of the other three that had come before it in this merry play-off tournament.

The Mountain men took control of the match and that is not something we have seen in a very long time. Not that convincingly anyway!

It was clear that they were not happy to rest on the “away goal advantage” ( if, indeed there had been one?!) but that they were trying very hard to decide this play-off “then and there”.

It took 30 seconds from Kick off  for them to fire the first (medium) quality shot from just outside the BM penalty area but Karam seemed to have significantly recovered from the first half incident and had little trouble stopping the shot.

About 11 minutes later a high flying free kick from some distance forced BM keeper Karam into a strong save. The 15th minute finally saw Karam’s resistance broken as a vicious shot by OM’s David Carrow made it past the BM keeper and into the back-of the net.

The 1-0 lead was followed up with more threatening high balls into the BM goal mouth area but if Karam was hurting you would not have known as he was solidly taking control of the ball. Another low shot was blocked by a BM defender.

It was only in the 67th minute that BM asked their first question in this half but the high ball was solidly caught and controlled by OM keeper Connolly.

OM had the next prime opportunity to extend their lead to a much more reassuring 2-0 lead as another free kick required yet another superb save by Karam in the 70th minute.

The period between the second half KO and the 72nd minute had provided a dominant display of attacking football by the OM Mountain Men and yet the match – nor the play-off – was put to bed yet.

This was the time when Beachlands Maraetai found their second wind and mounted an astonishing sustained attack that lasted for about 9 consecutive minutes (14 penalty area intrusions!).

Fergus Connolly – in OM’s goal on this occasion – had probably his best moment when he stopped BM’s singular High Quality Shot (C1SOT) – coming in low and from quite close no less – with a superb reflex save in the 74th minute.

Time was running out and BM were desperate now and they kept swarming OM’s penalty area but with diminishing returns. A 77th minute medium quality shot from just outside the penalty area was their last significant attempt on goal and that was again solidly dealt with by Connolly who supported his team very well indeed during BM’s attempts to storm the OM barricades.

Then it was OM who, after an almost 10 minute long absence from BM’s penalty area, were mounting another counterattack around the 80 minute mark that ended in a copy of BM’s last effort (i.e. C2SOT from just outside the penalty area).

Close to the end of regular match time and with BM growing more desperate and  also less organised, Tom Knight sealed the fate of this whole “Vacancy play-off shindig” with a strong header inside the 6Yard Box (the BM defenders really should have listened to their keeper!) for the unassailable 2:0 lead and victory.

OM who had found another gear – or two – or three – in this half still kept going from the restart and produced one last High Pressure moment in the 89th minute.

The very last word had BM, though, who admirably never gave up right until the final whistle and put one last threatening high ball in front of OM’s goal where it was claimed by keeper Connolly.

And that was that.

And with that final whistle, the OM 2017 horror season – all the memories of extremely hard earned points usually very much against the odds, hideous losses and “other shenanigans” that lead to this play-off in the first place: immediately buried and forgotten under the noise of ecstatic jubilations of the supporters of Onehunga Mangere UNITED and their team, the Mountain Men, who, across both matches, had remained unbeaten – once against the odds (again) and once because they were simply better on the day, well – one half, really – but what a half that was and it was the one the counted the most.

Although one could say (tongue in cheek) that Brian Turner’s and Dave Taylor’s mission to lead OM back into the NRFL Div 2 has prematurely come to a successful  end,  the real season has not even really started yet.

When and where IS it starting, by the way?!!! There is still no website with fixtures etc.!!

The mission for “the real” Beachlands Maraetai (you know what I mean) will be to fight their way to a Conference League win and promotion for the 2019 season. The “real” Onehunga Mangere’s goals will now revolve around making sure that they will meet their play-off opponents then and there again.

 What have we learned about the Mountain Men during this 2 leg play-off?

We have seen their true potential being unlocked by the new coaches in a very short space of time.

It has been astonishing (and wonderful but mostly astonishing) to see how certain mistakes (conceding shots from 1-1 situations and from inside their own 6 yard box mostly) that had continuously wreaked havoc with their 2017 season have simply disappeared, thus making the back-most player’s life on the field that much less  “entertaining”  than what it was all last season long.

Speaking of goal keepers …

in a somewhat surprising and extremely last minute decision a swap of keepers had taken place between the OM sticks just before the second match and so Fergus Connolly got his debut for OM. Despite what happened in the 75th minute of the match the previous week, Connolly had an almost impossible task ahead of him as it is simply impossible to improve on a 100% Shot Savings Rate and 100% solid non-SOT related performance index (said now infamous moment excluded)!

The next best possible thing for Connolly, then, would have been be to match this outstanding performance and that is what he essentially did – if and when also asked to do it! Helped by a match that developed very favourably compared to the first one but with a lot riding on it.

Would this switch have happened had the new coaches had an opportunity to see Dvorak in action and being all season long the proverbial rock onto which his team could lean game after game in 2017’s fraught season, when “compensatory” goal keeping essentially made  this play-off  possible in the first place (instead of Papatoetoe having the honours)? Who knows?  Who cares!

(BTW I intend for this coverage of the entire 2 leg play-off to have been the last one of a match with a direct personal link for me)

Huge preceding reputation apart , Brian Turner and Dave Taylor have earned a lot of respect and admiration in a very short space of time around the Mountain.  And after what we have seen and experienced over the past two Sundays no one can doubt that OM’s saviours will find a way to further optimise and maintain the great team performances of the Mountain Men in 2018.

Good on them!









































football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · NRFL · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

NRFL Div 2 “Vacancy Play-off” 1st leg: Beachlands Maraetai vs Onehunga Mangere – full analysis

Football is an utterly crazy game.

Consider these mutually exclusive statements that are ALL true:

  •  Team A should have won the game AND team B who should have lost the game also should have won the game?
  • Player X achieves a near perfect performance score (100%  and 86% on two KPIs!) yet leaves the field with a sense of utter dejection and despair?
  • Neither team A nor Team B would have gotten anything out of this match without the contribution of player X?


All will be explained below (I hope).

Mangere United’s withdrawal (due to their merger with Manukay City who now play in Prems as Manukau United) a chance presented itself to quietly and elegantly rectify the multiple wrongs of last year’s Div 2 season. Instead, a “vacancy play-off” was scheduled to see who would fill the “vacant” spot.

Before the first match, I was told by people – who know Auckland football much more intimately than I ever will – that it would be naive to think of Onehunga Mangere as the favourites. That because:

A: technically, after OM being relegated in 2107, both teams are Conference League teams at this point in time

and also because

B: each club is free to recruit as many “guest players” as they can or want for such a pre-season play-off. Heck –  they could field a whole team of players that have not played for them in 2017 and won’t play for them in the actual 2018 season either!

So, if Beachlands Maraetai could manage to recruit Playoff guest players on short term loan from, let’s say, last year’s Div 2 champions (!) Fencibles, then that would obviously change the picture heavily in their favour.

Does any of this make sense?  What would I know!?

Anyhow –

The way the first play-off match developed, quickly corroborated the notion that we were looking at a contest between equals at best but the longer it went on it became clear that the players in blue shirts were actually more than capable to put themselves firmly in the driver seat.



 Playoff DMC 1

Playoff DMC 2

DMC explanations

Quick Summary

  • BM dominated for 60 minutes (63%) of game time with OM enjoying an advantage for 21 minutes (22%) with 14 minutes (15%) of equilibrium between both sides (Pressure).
  • BM dominated throughout the match in regards to creating goal scoring opportunities with 12 to 2 High Pressure situations (BM 86% to OM 14%).
  • BM produced 5 quality shots (2x C1/1xC2/ 1x 6YB/ 1x 1-1) on target (71%) – all of which were saved by the OM keeper.
  • OM produced 2 quality shots (1xC1/ 1x 6YB) on target (29%) – one of which was saved by the BM keeper.
  • BM keeper Karam did not have to attend to any non-SOT related High Pressure (Reliability % na)
  • OM keeper had to deal with 7 non-SOT related High Pressure situations (6 successful = 86% Reliability, which is a high value)
  • BM’s KPI advantage suggested a (clear) win for them [even without any GK errors!]
  • Despite BM’s significant overall domination the match could actually have been won 1:0 by OM “against the odds” thanks to a goal scored via 6 yard box SOT from a corner kick by M Bruce as well as the 5 quality saves by the OM keeper Dvorak.
  • However, BM’s equaliser was the result of OM keeper non-SOT related error.

playoff table

HERE is a video with all significant  moments of the match.

Prediction for deciding re-match:

80+ % probability for a BM win in regular match time if KPI pattern is repeated (and without any GK errors on either side!)


Here is the new blog feature:

 Cognitive Biases in action

 I was intrigued by how public match reports seemed to agree that while BM had the majority of possession, it was OM who had the best chance to take the lead in the first half.

In reality, it was BM who took the only actually dangerous shot ON target in the 27th minute – and from a Fast Break/ 1-1 situation no less! No one seemed to remember or mention this significant game situation and I have an explanation why that was the case:

A combination of the Saliency effect and the Simulation Heuristic probably made people remember OM as the team with the best chance during the first 45 minutes of the match despite the opposite being true.

In plain English, this means that OM’s best chance was a cracking shot that was only a fraction OFF target and therefore hit the underside of the crossbar (instead of the back of the net) and then the goal line before spinning away. The target, you see, is actually the empty space on the INSIDE of the goal frame.

But – boy oh boy – did that moment look spectacular and therefore was extremely salient and thus memorable! On top of that it was very easy to imagine how this ball COULD HAVE gone in – twice – first on its journey to the lower edge of the crossbar and then again down to the goal line; that is the Simulation Heuristic at work.

Looking at this moment  multiple times in slow motion, by the way, makes me think that BM keeper Karam had it actually covered and that his fingertips – identical to what actually happened in the exact same spot early in the second half yet again – would probably have nudged the shot toward the cross bar with the same result: no goal! The difference is, of course, that this would have been a superb save instead of a very narrow miss that did not require such a save in the first place.

Although the following 1-1 situation – 16 minutes later – was factually more significant and did require an actual save to prevent the early BM lead (just look at the keeper’s immediate reactions as well as that of his team mates!) to most spectators it probably did not look nearly as spectacular in comparison to OM’s crossbar hit and therefore was overshadowed by it and thus easily forgotten by the time the match had finished and match reports were written.

The Dynamic Match Chart/ DMC also indicates that BM showed up no fewer than 20 times inside OM’S penalty area while the Mountain Men had no more than 8 such moments to their name during the opening half of this match. This significant imbalance of Pressure created is probably what lead to (correct) reports of a BM “possession” advantage.

The notion that OM was the more threatening team in the first half is even further removed from the data when we take into account that BM dominated a total of 27 minutes of the opening half compared to only 6 minutes of an objective OM advantage with the remaining 12 minutes being an equilibrium between the teams (see the DMC).

During this first half, BM created 4 High Pressure situations (2 High balls into the goal mouth area with BM players lurking to receive and convert, 1 1-1SOT and another Fast Break just defused by the keeper and then an OM defender in stoppage time) with OM not having any to their account!

There you go.

DMC effects demo

A single spectacular moment (i.e. SALIENCY) that COULD HAVE (i.e. SIMULATION HEURISTIC) lead to an OM goal (had the shot actually been ON target AND keeper Karam’s fingertips not making a difference!) created the collective impression that the Mountain Men had an advantage in the opening 45 minutes – when it was actually the complete opposite.

This is a nice example of how people may easily misjudge the objective flow of a match and the team’s respective factual strengths and weaknesses and how a careful and methodical observation and recording of significant actions is essential to ascertain a full and objective picture of a match as well as of individual players’ contributions.

Finally – the actual match Commentary

Apart from a cracking distance shot into the crossbar that flung the ball down onto the goal line but not behind it in the 11th minute BM more or less dominated the first half as they recorded 86% of all meaningful penalty area situations.

If not for a full stretch save by the OM keeper BM would have taken the lead in the 15 th minute when a classic 1-1 situation culminated in a well-executed shot into the far corner.

After that tense moment  no more shots on target could be recorded for either team. What we learned from this period (as well as the second half) was that the 2018 edition of the Mountain Men have nothing lost of their resilient spirit but that this resilience is harnessed now in a much more organised way under coach Brian Turner’s tutelage.

In stoppage time, OM had one more hairy moment to survive as yet another blue clad player broke through their defences. A desperate block by OM’s GK Dvorak prevented a shot from being taken before the ball could be cleared away by a defender and so it was still nil all at half time.

The second half saw initially a stronger attacking effort by OM but again it was BM who looked like going into the lead.

OM’s keeper just managed to get his finger tips on a rocket shot from inside the penalty area that subsequently banged into the crossbar and down on the line and then outwards. The following header was then deemed to have come from an off side position and so the score sheet remained blank for a few moments longer.

Then came OM’s strongest moments of the game when they pushed forward and forcing a corner in the process. It was this corner kick, delivered right into BM’s 6yard box, that was headed into the back of the net by M Bruce for the OM 1:0 lead – surely against the run of play up to this point and cause for some delirious celebrations.

This clearly spurned BM on to redouble their already impressive attacking efforts and they completely dominated territory for the rest of this match – apart from a few seconds in stoppage time.

Wave after wave of attacks came now crashing towards OM’s penalty area. One of those attacks lead to a shot from the edge of the 6yard box that required yet another reflex save by Dvorak to preserve the slender lead. More attacks and shots followed and OM players threw their bodies in the way leading to more corners for the “home” team BM.

A cheeky looping ball from the sideline was also heading for the underside of the crossbar, too, but the OM Keeper was having none of that and it started to look as if OM could actually pull off one of “those” wins against the odds (given how the match had developed to this point – please refer to the Dynamic Match Chart and Summary Match KPI Comparison Table for details)

15 minutes from the end another well-placed BM corner kick was yet again safely plucked out of the air by Dvorak just before THE MOMENT happened. This is “the moment” that every goal keeper fears the most. A moment that can (at least partially) undo all the good work the keeper and his whole team have put into a match .

What could have been a simple kick out of the hands or a quick boot up field turned into such a moment of horror as he dropped the ball to the ground seemingly with no one in sight, readying himself for a kick. However BM’s Nick Reid sensed an opportunity and charged at the keeper with enormous speed. Once Dvorak realised the acuity of this completely unexpected threat it was already too late and he was swiftly dispossessed and left in the dust with an easy tap into the empty goal: OM’s  lead gone in the blink of an eye and out of absolutely nothing and after withstanding so many attacks and shots. Kudos to BM’s Nick Reid to first create and then utilise such an opportunity out of thin air!

Almost simultaneously – on the other end of the globe as well as on the complete opposite end of the spectrum of football competitions – my old home town club VfB Stuttgart played against FC Cologne in Germany’s highest level league (Bundesliga). Cologne eventually lost this match to visitors Stuttgart 2:3 on the back of one terrible and another not as obvious mistake by their keeper Timo Horn. ( here is a link to the original article for any German speaking visitors to this blog)

What is my point here?!

My point is that Cologne’s keeper Horn is very much in the frame to be in Germany’s upcoming World Cup squad – he is normally that good!

So, we have a professional goal keeper playing on the highest level in a season defining match (Cologne is in grave danger of being relegated) and he costs his team not just the match but possibly their last chance to stay in Germany’s highest league.

Is it, then, too lenient when allowing for the possibility that a young keeper in his 23rd official match for his club finally may produce his first really bad stuff up? Even when the keeper’s gross miscalculation of the situation came at the most inopportune time in his OM career thus far?

Therefore,  it was moving to note his team’s and the team’s supporters’ positive reactions afterwards as they all knew that he had still also very significantly contributed towards the final draw against a very strong opposition team with everything else he did in this match.

So – a world apart in more than one way – he has now something in common with Germany’s possible national Goal Keeper Timo Horn: the support of people who understand that this is the real world and not the inside of a Hollywood Superhero movie and that very occasionally such terrible moments simply happen – even to the very best of them.



In the dying seconds of the match OM managed to shake off their justified disappointment and mounted one more serious attack themselves but their final attempt in stoppage time was too close (i.e. a borderline C1SOT) to BM’s keeper Jared Kamar  who finally also had a chance to get seriously involved in this match with a good reflex save just before the final whistle.


As the “away goals rule” does not seem to apply to this “vacancy playoff” (that actually DOES make sense as both matches are played at the same neutral ground!), absolutely nothing was decided after the final whistle.   Given BM’s KPIs they would now, however, have to be seen as the favourites for the deciding re-match!?

OM have already vastly improved over last season’s efforts where a territorial disadvantage of 33% to 67% of Pressure scores would have included far more Fast Breaks/ 1-1 against them as well as conceding shots from inside their 6yard box than it did in this match. Under Brian Turner’s guidance the Mountain Men were much more able to restrict their opponents in regards to taking quality shots and their 6 yard box was “out of bounds” for any player not wearing red.. Still, a negative ratio of 2 to 5 in Quality shots and  2 to 12 in High Pressure moments was too much for comfort. They key issue for the deciding re-match will be whether OM can keep limiting BM’s quality shots on target while ramping up their own production of High Pressure moments (2 is just not nearly enough across 90 minutes in any game) and quality shots on target in particular.

At the time this blog is being published (6:45 pm on 11th March) the second match has been well under way and we are maybe already wiser as to the outcome of the “Vacancy Play-off”.

The detailed analysis of this all deciding second match will be published within the next few days.

May the better team win!