Chatham Cup · football · goal keeping · match analysis · match stats · Pressure · Quality Shots · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

Hidden heroes of the 2019 Chatham Cup – a “one blog only” special in honour of Onerahi FC

Observing yesterday’s Chatham Cup Rd 2 match between Manukau United and Onerahi FC, I spontaneously decided to do this “one blog only” special.

Before we dive into this match I want to share with you an interesting article on the Champions League winners Liverpool:


HERE is the link

Isn’t it interesting  how data analysis plays a critical role in their recent successes? It seems that bona fide “footballnumbersblog KPIs” such as Pressure/ Presence scores – that I developed some years back on my own, while everyone else was still prattling on about largely meaningless “possession” stats – play a significant role over there as well.

It’s nice to see more confirmation that I may have been barking up the CORRECT tree for the last few years.

Anyhow – here is the actual blog:



Hidden heroes of the North

  Chatham Cup 2019

Rd 2  1/6/2019

Manukau United           13:0 


Onerahi FC
88    =      92%   Presence 8   =    8%
36   =     41%   of 88 Danger / Pressure


1       =  13% of 8
44 Total Shot attempts 3
23  =  52%  of 44 Total Shots on target 0   = 0% of 3



This Chatham Cup round 2 match was ever only going to end one way. That much was clear after about 5 minutes.

The truncated KPI table (because there is really no need to go any further in the “analysis”) demonstrates that this was the most one sided competitive match of football that I have ever seen in my whole life.

Manukau’s advantage in regards to PRESSURE and SOT (Shots On Target) was mind boggling and is duly reflected in the final result.

The match resembled the recent battle against the Nightwalkers at Winterfell where the combined forces of Westeros, Dothraki and the Unsullied did not stand a chance and were in the process of being completely annihilated. Alas, for the defenders of the (Football) North – Onerahi – Arya Stark does not play football and so they had no deus ex machina to help them out of their predicament.

Where the parallels to HBO’s fictitious documentary hold true is the fact that even – or is that especially (?) – in defeat ,there can be acts of heroism.

This blog is a tribute to the Onerahi team who played and fought bravely and with great sportsmanship!

It would be so easy for a game like this to deteriorate because the losing team (HT score already 8-0) becomes frustrated and desperate or simply tired. They were on countless occasions literally run off their feet by the home team.

To their full credit, this did NOT happen, though! There was no frustration born malice creeping in and Onerahi played fairly and cleanly to the bitter end: no fouls and no diving and trying to manipulate the official into wrong decisions!


(if only this could equally be observed in the regular season)

Uninformed punters and bystanders might think that the Onerahi team embarrassed themselves in this huge loss. Nothing could be further from the truth!

There were numerous occasions where technically clean and well timed tackles were made that prevented even more Manukau shots or assists being taken – especially in the second half. There were several moments where Onerahi players strung together a fluid combination in midfield and made a run for it.

In other words – against an overwhelming opponent – Onerahi players demonstrated skills and heart regardless of the scoreboards grim message.

This deserves respect and I could not help myself applauding such scenes and I loved that several more Manukau supporters also understood what was happening and joined me in paying respect to the team from Whangarei.

This brings me to my final point about an absolute hero in my book: Onerahi’s Goal Keeper.

He faced up to no fewer than thirty bloody six danger moments in this match.


A high number in any match would be 12 or more!! He had to work his way through 300% of that high water mark.

He did so without noticeable drop in performance – and that is a lot more than you can say about most keepers operating on the highest level of the game. Usually performance levels start to drop noticeable if a keeper’s workload reaches 10 to 12 at the latest (that’s about the inevitable physical and mental fatigue that WILL set in eventually).

This hero held firm and that is even more remarkable as he copped a hit in the face after about 35 minutes in the first half when an overzealous player ( the score line was 7-0 already!) earned himself the single yellow card of the match.

With a heavily bandaged jaw – making him look like a mix of the classic “Invisible Man” and “Robotman from Doom Patrol” he carried on as if nothing had happened. That’s bravery and dogged resilience for you.

Manukau produced 23 (!!) Shots on target. If you read the final score again you will realise that this keeper – injured and all – made 10 (!) saves.

10 saves!

HERE is a video showcasing some of Onerahi’s GK’s actions.

As you can see in this video,  some of these saves were really good ones, too! This keeper produced 3 highest category (C1SOT) saves alone. Again this is more than many highly regarded custodians can claim about themselves.

That is a truly heroic performance that – in all likelihood – is sadly going to be buried under the final score line.

Not here! Not in this blog!

Ben Lee of Onerahi  FC – stand up and take a bow!

I salute you as a Chatham Cup hero and I salute your team mates for playing with heart, skills and honour!

You were most worthy representatives of the North and I wish you all the best for your regular season!


And with that  footballnumbersblog is once more suspended until further notice.




FNB will be suspended until further notice

after debating this with myself for a while it is time to admit that this blog will take a break for now.

it has been …. interesting … sharing with you how a fairly simple procedure can produce valid and useful info on any football team’s objective performance.

the FNB have proven themselves over and over again from 15th grade youth competitions across all levels of the NRFL and all the way to overseas professional leagues and international tournaments.

i have to say that it was gratifying to see concepts – that I regard as original when I started this blog  such as Pressure/ Presence popping up in the coverage of professional leagues.

as it still impossible for me to report on matches that I don’t have a personal attachment in – and for other reasons – this blog will now remain suspended indefinitely and we will have to wait and see if I have the opportunity to return with new analyses to you.

this has been a blog with a rather small but amazingly international viewership and I want to say “ Thank You” to all of you who have been taking an interest!

better football everyone 👋⚽️😎



NRFL 2019 Pre-season match: Manukau United vs Glenfield Rovers 5-0

One week out from the start of the season Manukau United hosted fellow Premier competitors Glenfield Rovers for a last pre-season match.

For more than half an hour it was a very even affair with very few attempts on goal and lots of emphasis on carving out an advantage in midfield.

Towards the end of the first half, however, the hosts started to assert themselves convincingly at their home ground, Centre Park and it was 2:0 at half time.

The second half really saw the Manukau team “own” the match and adding 3 more goals to their tally while their guests were successfully contained and did not manage a single shot on target.

Pre-season matches are funny occasions and one should not read too much into results. I have seen teams who looked “unprepared” do really well in the actual competition and I have witnessed teams struggling terribly after brilliant pre-season results.

However, it looks a lot as if Manukau United are ready and prepared for their second season in the NRFL top competition.

Let it begin!


MU vs GRO Pre

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

NRFL pre-season friendly: Manukau United (Prem) vs Bucklands Beach (DIV1) 6-4

Clearly, a lot of goals were scored in  today’s pre-season friendly between Manukau United and their visitors from Bucklands Beach.

In the end the home team prevailed 6-4  (HT 3-3) over a Bucklands Beach team that left a very strong impression.

The newly promoted Div 1 team produced very good KPIs in this outing and my impression was that they should be contenders for promotion into the top flight of NRFL come September. (you heard it here first!)


This is what Bucklands Beach produced:

Total Pressure:  42  –                               very high

High Pressure:  15   –                               very high

High Quality shots: 4  –                            very high

Shots from 1-1 situations:  1  –              good

Shots from inside the 6 Yard box: 1  – good


That is an impressive KPI profile for the East-Aucklanders.

Good luck to them in their upcoming campaign from FNB.

football · goal keeping · Hyundai A-League · match analysis · match stats · officiating · Pressure · Quality Shots · scoring games · Shots on Target SOT · Uncategorized

Hyundai A-League: Wellington Phoenix – Melbourne Victory 1:1




In the balance of 95 minutes of match time, a draw between the Phoenix and the visitors from Melbourne is a very reasonable outcome when looking at the KPIs.

In fact, the Melbourne Victory produced more really dangerous shots on target (4 to 2).

The Phoenix created a small advantage (53% to 47%) in regards to PRESSURE (i.e. penalty area intrusions/ territory) in what was a somewhat frantic match (115 combined Pressure scores!).

However, they were not able to translate all this ample opportunity into enough high quality shots on target to decide the match in their favour. A big part in that played Melbourne’s tenacious defending and I cannot remember a match with as many blocked shots inside the penalty area (21!!) as this one.

Both Goal Keepers did an excellent job with the Phoenix needing their custodian more to keep them in this match!

Both goals were essentially unsaveable by anyone wearing gloves.

On that note – Both keepers combined made about 58 ball contacts during the match.

36 of those contacts were goal kicks/ throws/ Free Kicks (62%) and 22 were core business related (i.e. saves and defusion actions = 38%).

This speaks of the frantic nature of this match as we often see 80 or even 90% (or more) of keeper actions NOT being related to saves and defusion actions.

Interestingly, 62% of their actions had literally 0% immediate relevance for the outcome of the match while the remaining 38% of their saves and defusion actions were 100% important in regards to the final result.

Of the Goal kicks/Free Kicks 70% (14 out of 20) did NOT end up with one of their own team mates.

For (back-) passes the success rate was much better with 69% (11 out of 16) finding a team mate.

But – as I observed – none of THAT mattered at all in this match, while their various saves certainly did.

The officiating aspect was not impressive with numerous debatable decisions and none of them more disappointing than the awarding of a penalty to Melbourne that was based on one of many diving incidents.

Mind you, the home team should have seen an additional yellow (or more) card and I did not like how a Phoenix player tried to disrupt Melbourne’s keeper setting up a wall either.

Within the rules? I guess, so.

Sportsmanlike?  No.

My last entries in this blog were on gamesmanship versus sportsmanship and gamesmanship was well and truly on display last night with the visitors probably “winning” that contest with their endless diving and simulating – especially as it got them a point out of this match – all other things being equal.

So – there you have it.

This was the “Summer Edition” of FNB.

NRFL starts again in 6 weeks!

Ethics and sportsmanship · football · NRFL · officiating · team season stats · Uncategorized

Ethics and Sportsmanship in amateur football – Part 2

I realised that I never did the second part of the “Ethics and Sportsmanship” essay.

Truth be told – I have enjoyed a bit of time away from the frenzy of competitive football, especially now that I am no longer able to follow the random bits and pieces that is the SKY TV coverage of the NZ Premiership, anyway.

On the other hand I usually like to follow through with my public announcements and promises.

So, here is the second part:

Spectators’ and officials’ roles

In most ways it is really simple.

Spectators cannot abuse players, other spectators and officials verbally, let alone physically.

Physically attacking officials, players or other spectators (key word here is “attacking” – not defending oneself when BEING attacked, as self-defence is anyone’s right- at least OFF the field) is just as disgusting and unlawful as it is in any other location or context. There is no place for hooliganism.

Protecting officials, in particular, by interpreting any physical contact – even as minor as holding someone’s sleeve etc. – as out of bounds is the right thing to do and everyone simply needs to understand that one CANNOT touch an official – ever.

End of story.

What constitutes verbal abuse, of course, can be debated and I am sure different people will come up with different definitions.

Insults (typically of homophobic and racist nature) and name calling and/or making threatening gestures towards players or officials (or other spectators) is abuse in my book.

Having been personally subjected to all of the above over the last 10 years – in person or virtually in a local anonymous internet forum – I have a fairly good understanding of how disgusting and upsetting (as well as pathetic)  this can be.

All of the above is nothing less than verbal violence and simply intolerable.

End of story.

Some people will interpret any disapproving noise or comment coming from the side lines or grand stands as abuse, though.

I disagree with such an extreme interpretation. Making some noise and cheering and – yes – even “booing” and whistling (NOT insulting – two different things!) when being unhappy with players’ or officials’ performances is something that should be tolerated and even expected at a spectator sport such as football. If we disallowed that then the whole thing would turn into an utmost sterile event. I have “experienced” such football matches with a completely lethargic crowd and with less of an “atmosphere” than a visit to any average cemetery at midnight in the middle of Winter would provide.

Is there any point to “booing” and yelling (no insults !) and does it benefit one’s supported team, though?

Probably not.

If anything, I often have the impression that officials being “pressured” like that will “dig in” rather than reflecting on their decisions and correcting their approach.

And that is the exact opposite of what the “effort” of an upset spectator aims at: pointing out that one’s supported team appears to be disadvantaged by decisions and reminding the official that “consistency” is the key to good and fair officiating.

Have I been “sucked into this” – objectively unbecoming – behaviour at times?


Am I proud of it?

Absolutely not!

How come, then, that someone of reasonable intelligence and self-control in everyday life would get “sucked into” expressing themselves by  making loud and weird disapproving noises or remarks (not insults!)?

Here we come to the role of the officials.

While it has been said elsewhere that it is not the officials’ job and responsibility to control others’ emotions I’d like to point out that is IS an official’s responsibility to make sure – as best as humanely possible – that the official rules of the game apply to BOTH teams and ALL players equally.

It IS – by definition – the official’s responsibility to control the match and involved parties’ behaviour (players and team officials) by applying sanctions such as warnings and yellow/red cards. That’s the point of these sanctions – reinforcing acceptable (i.e. sportsmanship-like) behaviour and to discourage unacceptable (i.e. gamesmanship-like) behaviour.

Equally lenient or equally strict – that does not matter as long as the decisions are CONSISTENT.

What I have observed over the years is a very strong unwillingness to even entertain the notion that officials could be sometimes wrong or – much worse – could be repeatedly wrong in an inconsistent way that does eventually disadvantage one team or particular players.

It is not useful to pretend that officials are infallible super heroes that will not fall prey to common cognitive human biases (see the permanent page for more details on those) and therefore make mistakes and get decisions wrong.

What is not useful is for available video evidence not even to be looked at.

Severe decisions, such as suspending a player for several matches because of “violent conduct” against an official, for example, when a video clearly shows that no such behaviour had actually occurred, would reflect unfavourably on the game and the decisions made because disregarding available evidence in a judiciary process of any kind is wrong.

In my opinion, there is no getting away from the fact that officials do carry an enormous responsibility for upholding the ideal of sportsmanship through ensuring a “level playing field” for both teams.

If – for whatever reasons – they do not meet this responsibility, then it must be allowed to comment – without resorting to insults or threats or violence, of course.

Rugby, for once, may have the better system. I have been told that it is customary to have PUBLIC hearings on important match decisions and officials explaining themselves to anyone who cares. This instills a sense of accountability and transparency to all stakeholders instead of decisions made behind closed doors as it is customary in football.

Back to the immediate game situation – despite promising myself in early March that my booing and hissing days would be over – because I can rationally see that it is no use anyway – I still found myself getting hot under the collar occasionally but never more so than on one particular occasion.

Reflecting on this particular match – and my unbecoming behaviour (no insults, though!) – it really struck me how the seemingly extreme lack of consistency created a strong sense of this match being very unfair to my supported team and how this triggered my own – unbecoming – behaviour.

As I have done in previous years, post-match –  I went over long lists of results and tried to see if a match that felt particularly “wrong” to me – such as this one – still fits with overall patterns for the teams involved – or not.

In other words I did look for evidence that it was ME who was wrong and that I was just allowing my disappointment on the day to cloud my judgment about the officiating.

Here is what I found:twoone


What you clearly see is that this match was a complete “outlier” for BOTH teams in relation to their respective championship campaigns.

ECB’s winning margin was twice as good as any other of their few wins and they scored 50% more goals than in any other match.

MU loosing margin was twice as big as any other of their few losses and they conceded 100% MORE goals than in any other match.

The outcome of this match simply does NOT make any sense at all when seen in the context of EITHER team’s performances through the entire season.

This is no more than “circumstantial” evidence at best, of course, and it could have coincidentally been ECB’s  best performance of the season, by far, meeting with MU’s  worst performance of the season, by far.

And yet, the original blog (see HERE) explains how this “wrong” outcome really came about (in my humble opinion) and it explains why I – and many others around me – got very distressed about what we saw unfolding in front of our eyes and why I/we  expressed disagreement very vocally (no insults, though!) although it clearly did not make any positive difference to the level of consistency in decision making on the day.


And that concludes my musings on sportsmanship in amateur sports/ football.


I may or may not catch one or two NZ Premiership matches live until the end of the season and will then report on what I observed.


Until then –

Happy Holidays  and a peaceful 2019 to EVERYONE

Ethics and sportsmanship · football · Uncategorized

“All is fair in Love and War”: Ethics and sportsmanship in amateur football – thoughts and reflections on a game that sometimes can be much less beautiful than it deserves to be!

There’s a difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.”

(Michael Josephson, founder and president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics)


To understand the role ethics plays in sport and competition, it is important to make a distinction between gamesmanship and sportsmanship.

Gamesmanship is built on the principle that winning is everything.

Athletes and coaches are encouraged to bend the rules wherever possible in order to gain a competitive advantage over an opponent, and to pay less attention to the safety and welfare of the competition.

A more ethical approach to athletics is sportsmanship.

Under a sportsmanship model, healthy competition is seen as a means of cultivating personal honour, virtue, and character. It contributes to a community of respect and trust between competitors and in society. The goal in sportsmanship is not simply to win, but to pursue victory with honour by giving one’s best effort.

(Kirk O. Hanson & Matt Savage, Markkula Center / Institute for Sports Law and Ethics, 2012)


From time to time – usually triggered by watching matches live or by observations made when analysing video footage of matches in great detail at home – the numbers and stats take a back seat for me and bigger questions of a more … philosophical nature rear their head.

I have been told on more than one occasion, that my sense of fairness and “honour” (whatever that means) is somewhat overdeveloped and that I should just “chill and accept that life isn’t fair and get on with it.”

I get it!

While I am neither young nor naïve enough anymore to believe that life in general is “fair” I am just not willing to abandon the idea of SPORTSMANSHIP – especially in amateur sports.

To my relief I found out that I am not the only one who occasionally obsesses about ethics and sportsmanship. It is a real issue and maybe we (that is the people somehow involved in amateur sports such as the NRFL) would do well to pause every now and then and reflect on how we approach “our game” ?

Some time ago, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, USA has come up with a nice definition of ethics and sportsmanship:

Ethical conduct is a set of guiding principles with which each person follows the letter and spirit of the rules. Such conduct reflects a higher standard than law because it includes, among other principles, fundamental values that define sportsmanship.


The ROLE of coaches and players


FAIRNESS, INTEGRITY, RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY have been put forward as the hallmarks of sportsmanship which is the opposite of gamesmanship, which subscribes to the notion of “winning at all costs, including foul play and cheating”.

(Kirk O. Hanson and Matt Savage, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics)


It seems clear to me that SPORTSMANSHIP is first and foremost a virtue and a character trait of individuals (players, coaches, supporters, officials) but it can also be a matter of team culture if and when it is systematically and repeatedly substituted with GAMESMANSHIP as defined by the following mind set:

  • Winning is everything
  • It’s only cheating if you get caught
  • It is the referee’s job to catch wrongdoing, and the athletes and coaches have no inherent responsibility to follow the rules
  • The ends always justify the means

The means being justified by winning might be behaviours such as:

  • Faking a foul or injury
  • Covert personal fouls, such as hitting or pushing or grabbing a player when the ref is not looking
  • Inflicting pain on an opponent with the intention of intimidating or knocking him or her out of the game,
  • Fouling, taunting or intimidating an opponent- especially when done in order to provoke them, knowing that “retaliation” is typically being punished much more harshly than any original provocation


In football – as in all contact sports – foul play and infringements happen all the time. In that sense it is an inevitable part of a quite dynamic and physical game.

However, it seems to me that there are 3 very different levels of foul play.

  1. Accidents

There are situations that happen more or less accidentally because of a lack of skill or because of exhaustion (i.e. clumsy challenges, involuntary reflex leading to hand ball etc.). Typically the “offender” knows what they did was “off” and often enough they are the first ones to apologise – no big deal.


  1. Losing momentarily control

These are the “red mist situations”. The (over-motivated and over-excited or repeatedly provoked) player loses self-control and knowingly commits a foul or tries to cheat “in the heat of the moment”. Typically we do not see many apologies after that as a sense of righteousness (or desperation) prevents the player from regaining perspective and acknowledging the errors of their ways.


  1. Cynical foul play

These are the situations where knowingly AND intentionally (!) and even in a calculated fashion fouls are being committed and/or cheating (“diving” in particular) occurs. Of course, we won’t see any apologies or admission of any wrong doing here (by the player or anyone else sharing this particular mind set of Gamesmanship) as the basis of such cynical actions is a complete absence of FAIRNESS, INTEGRITY RESPECT and RESPONSIBILITY. What we witness on these occasions, instead, is a form of MALICE, DISRESPECT and DEVIANCY, actually. Cynical foul play is the epitome of gamesmanship.


The potential long-term consequences of cynical foul play

Something that has come to the fore for me this season – apart from the immediate undeserved advantage gained – has been the insidious consequences of players – or even entire teams – acquiring a “reputation” as being uncontrolled or “violent” because of having reacted to cynical foul play.

The laws of the game are clearly designed to prevent or at least contain any incidents of “violent conduct”. As such any behaviour by a player – factually harmless as it may have been – will be severely punished by a sent off and a possible prolonged suspension.

While violent conduct HAS TO be stopped, of course,  a red card and suspension for the retaliating player also means that the cynical agent provocateur – if not equally being held responsible for their provocative actions – has been successful!

Some teams – subscribing to Gamesmanship as their philosophy – may even want to systematically capitalise on the reputation of their opponents by incessantly provoking them and complaining about them on and off the field.

Apart from being excluded from the match (and possibly others), the main problem with such a reputation (also known as “rusty Halo effect”) is that the public perception of such players will become naturally biased. Simply speaking a player with such a reputation will be much more likely to be judged in future games as having “misbehaved” even if they are objectively not.

A double standard develops that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as the “known violent” player” will attract disproportional attention from bystanders and officials, thus “confirming” the bias even more. A nearly unbreakable vicious cycle has developed in such a case.

The recent spontaneous reaction of a Birkenhead supporter to a completely harmless coming together of players in a match that was actually marked by great fairness and sportsmanship all round. This person shouting out: ”Here we go again!” was a  great illustration of the potential consequences of what amounts to character assassination for players who have acquired “ a reputation”.


Here is yet another viewpoint on this issue:

Ironically, violations also indicate a cheater’s lack in confidence in his or her ability to compete on a “level field.”

 Ethical lapses redefine the game as not fair; in fact, cheating transforms the sport from a collegial celebration to a cynical manipulation.  Any variety of serious cheating … defeats fairness and guts the meaning of the competition and the meaning of any awards given, especially to the cheater.


There is really not much more to say about the corrosive effect of gamesmanship.

Next time we will be looking at the role of spectators, supporters as well as officials when it comes to upholding sportsmanship in amateur sports.

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

NRFL Premier Division “minor Final for 2nd Place” aka RD 22 Birkenhead vs Manukau

As predicted, the last round saw a “minor Final” for this year’s Premier Division runner-up position played out between Birkenhead United and visiting Manukau United. Under mostly dry conditions but also with some brief showers during the second spell, we saw a lively game of football, played in good spirits, officiated well and with sportsmanship on display by all involved.

Great to see, what is possible if no one  focuses on provoking others instead of just playing the game “in good faith”!

Well done!

Birkenhead had bigger fish to fry with their Chatham Cup Final coming up the following Saturday. Therefore, the club fielded for this match a team that was …. REALLY young.

First Half video HERE

Second Half video HERE

From Kick off it was obvious that Birkenhead’s players were very skilled operators indeed but also somewhat outmatched by Manukau’s squad – despite themselves not being able to field some regular players. It could well have been 2:0 for the South Auckland visitors with the first 6 minutes but once a shot banged into the cross bar and Birkenhead’s custodian managed to slow down the ball enough with his fingertips in another (1-1) situation so that a defender could clear it away before it crossed the white line.

Then out of pretty much nothing at all, Birkenhead got awarded a penalty. While the call could be called “soft”, the actual penalty shot by  Jack Anderson  (19th minute) was anything but and so Birkenhead had gone up 1:0 – most definitely against the run of play.

Of course, Manukau being used to falling behind early in matches (something to be improved on in 2019, for sure) were undeterred and normal transmission resumed immediately.

Iwa Shaker opened the visitors’ account in the 27th minute for the 1-1 equaliser.

If you look at the Dynamic Match Chart (DMC) it is obvious that it looked as if it was only a matter of time for Manukau to pull ahead as the match continued to be played almost exclusively in and around Birkenhead’s penalty area. Using the penalty call against Manukau as the yardstick, more such calls could have been expected, maybe, but none were forthcoming.

In fact, Birkenhead’s youngsters pulled a fast break on their visitors and again – against the run of play – the final shot from the ensuing 1-1 situation was very skilfully slotted past the sprawled out Manukau keeper by Matthew Banks for the 2:1 home team lead 42nd minute.

Their jubilations were rather short lived, though, as Manukau’s Iwa Shaker – in injury time of course (45+2 minutes) – pulled the match back for the 2-2 Halftime score.


The DMC for the second half demonstrates that the match was dead even between the teams – in regards to territory (PRESSURE).

Manukau, however, augmented their quantitative output now with even more quality in finishing and that proved simply too much for Birkenhead’s players. The visitors took the 3:2 lead only 50 seconds from Kick off and it was Golden Boot winner Sanni Issa who finished his season in style with an absolutely unstoppable screamer of a shot.

Then it was Micah Lea’alafa’s time to shine by adding 2 more goals of his own – both of them quite difficult to stop by any keeper, really (55th and 68th minute).

5:2 was the final score with the home team not being able to place a single shot on target during the second half. Birkenhead’s youngsters still played well… and fair and without letting their frustration clouding their judgments and therefore allowed for a match that was noteworthy for high class football in every respect.


With this win, Manukau United  became the runners-up in the 2018 NRFL Premier Division, beaten by two points only by successful title defenders Onehunga Sports.

NOT. THAT. BAD. AT. ALL.  for a club in their inaugural season but still leaving just that little bit of wriggle room above that will make everyone around Centre Park hungry for more in 2019 and beyond.

Let’s hope that certain stereotypes and palpable prejudice towards the new South Auckland football powerhouse will start to fade away over time and thus allow EVERYONE to see that Manukau United’s team is just another good football team – this year even a bit better than most other and far more established clubs.

But, more importantly, it is a football team that is categorically NOT worse than anyone else out there in any shape or form – no matter what the rumours say.

Perceptions and reputation matter and cognitive biases also unfortunately matter in decision making on and off the field of play and it would be my hope that every decision maker is aware of such biases and has the will and the support on how to overcome them in order to create a fair and level playing field for everyone – no matter which particular corner of Auckland they hail from.

Birkenhead United even slipped to fourth (on goal difference) as East Coast Bays ended their deeply disappointing end-of-season-run with another hefty 8 nil loss to fellow newcomers/returnees Western Springs who thus also made it into the top three on the final table.

Good Luck to Birkenhead’s “A-Team” that will compete in coming Saturday’s Chatham Cup Final against Western Suburbs (Wellington)!!

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

NRFL Premier Division Rd 19: Hamilton Wanderers vs Manukau United 1-3 – A Master Class in tenacity

Porritt Stadium, Hamilton, was the first stop of Manukau United’s frantic end of season tour comprising 3 away games in 8 days.

This was these teams’ fourth encounter this season as they had already played Rd 8 NRFL at Mangere Centre Park (4-3 win to Manukau), then had met for a Round 4 Chatham Cup match in Hamilton that was abandoned after one hour (with Manukau in the lead) – then had met again to replay THAT match (3:1 win for Manukau if memory serves correctly).

With both teams still in the running for the Premier NRFL title – at least mathematically and contingent on a late season Onehunga slip-up – a lot was riding on this match for either side.


The conditions were damp with an occasional little bit of drizzle – just to make the surface a bit more slippery as a number of players found out during the match which took place outside of the actual stadium on a well prepared pitch.

The first 12 to 15 minutes saw neither team gaining an advantage as the game unfolded pretty much between the respective penalty areas.

Sometimes, low PRESSURE scores (i.e. meaningful penalty area intrusions) indicate uneventful games because neither team tries to take the initiative. Sometimes, low PRESSURE scores mean that a very intense and interesting midfield tussle for supremacy has taken place.

This match was of the second variety.

In the 13th minute the Wanderers fans and supporters were treated to another episode of the ever so popular Tommy Semmy Show.  It was him  – who else!? – who broke the initial deadlock.

Watching his goal developing in super slow motion is strangely fascinating as one can appreciate just how complex football can be when you break it down into its constituents – moment by moment.

  1. First, Semmy is sent off with a nice forward pass by one of his team mates.
  2. Usain Bolt like, he then starts to outsprint two Manukau players and has pulled clear at the moment Manukau’s keeper decided to come out as it looked like a 1-1 situation was happening.
  3. One of the two chasing Manukau players realised what was happening and turned away from the impending melee in order to cover the goal line.
  4. At the moment the keeper arrives, Semmy stops to finally touch and control the ball, managing to outflank the keeper in the process – who keeps his wits about him by not doing anything that could be misinterpreted as a bookable offence – and who goes down for a fraction of a second.
  5. Semmy then gets around the Manukau defender who slips on the greasy surface.
  6. Now – as the keeper is already back on his feet and on his way back into position – another Manukau player is entering the scene, yet also goes down and is thus rounded by Semmy.
  7. While this is happening , the keeper has to jump over his own player who had just gone down in his attempt to make it back to the line.
  8. Semmy makes a final turn and takes a precise shot past the covering defender, just before a fourth Manukau player is on him and before the keeper is back to do anything about it.

Hats off to Tommy Semmy, who showed why he is the closest challenger to Manukau’s Sanni Issa for the Golden Boot trophy!

In hindsight, of course,  it would have been better for the keeper to stay on the line, although, when he made the decision not to…?  Lesson learned and valuable experience gained for Manukau’s 19 year old custodian Danyon Dvorak in his third full match appearance for the South Auckland team.

Then, his Wanderers counterpart, Cory Townsend – even younger at only 17 – also felt the heat of NRFL Premier Division football as he was simply powerless against a header by Manukau’s Iwa Shaker. A pinpoint cross by Prince Quansah saw a completely unmarked Shaker connect from inside the 6 yard box (with Andre Estay lurking right behind him as well) for the 1:1 equaliser in the     minute.

Another Manukau shot during the middle period of the first half went past the goal.

The match had turned into a seesawing battle now with both teams pushing forward.

It was Wanderers’ Bayliss, who produced the best shot of the match from quite some distance at about the 30th minute, the quality of which was, however, matched by Dvorak’s flying save to preserve the score.

This moment seemed to have poked Manukau into action even more as the remaining 18 minutes of the first half “belonged to them” as the match now fully shifted into and around the Wanderers’ penalty area.

Townsend recorded a good save of a medium quality shot (i.e. powerful but aimed at him) before the referee pointed to the spot due to a hand ball a few minutes later.

Andre Estay sent Hamilton’s keeper the wrong way and calmly slotted in for the visitors’ 2:1 lead just before half time.

1st Half Video highlights HERE

Dynamic Match Chart 1st Half:



The second half began as the first had ended with Manukau quickly taking the initiative in trying to put this match beyond reach for the home team.

Sure enough, a tight pass across the goal face was deflected by Townsend. On many occasions, this would have been recorded as a successful “intercept” by the FNB data gatherer. However, the ball was  still a free agent and right in front of Estay who did not needed to be asked twice and calmly lopped the ball past  the desperate follow-up lunge of the keeper and into the net for the 3:1 Manukau lead.

Then the match dynamic changed completely with the Wanderers intruding threateningly no fewer than 23 times into the visitors’ penalty area while they mustered no more than another 4 such moments during the remaining 40 minutes of match time.

Manukau’s cause wasn’t helped by twice goal scorer Estay being sent off for…..


Oh well, Manukau is no stranger to defending strongly – attacking even – when down in numbers. And so it was another Master Class in tenacity by the South Auckland team until the final whistle.

As usual, everyone demonstrated exemplary discipline and work ethic and this made it very hard for the Wanderers to take many shots on target.

Manukau kept staunchly defending with pretty much everyone chipping in when needed to defend the Manukau white line inside their own penalty area. This was how another 2 promising efforts by the Wanderers were blocked by Manukau players as well.

Hamilton’s Townsend showed a nice bit of tenacious defending himself when he managed to hassle and jostle Iwa Shaker away from the goal mouth and to the side of the penalty area.


The final whistle came in the 95th minute – or thereabouts – and with it came the realisation that Manukau United in their inaugural season with two more games in the next 7 days are still not out of the title race – although – with Onehunga producing a convincing win of their own that day – it is now more likely that we might see a “final” between Chatham Cup finalist Birkenhead United and Manukau United for the runner-up position, instead.

2nd half video highlights HERE

The KPI match table shows that it was a real gutsy team effort – once again – that carried Manukau to victory in this match against a strong Hamilton Wanderers team who created quite a bit of a territorial advantage (61% to 39%) – especially in the second half – and deservedly find themselves also in the upper part of the table.

MANHAM table

7 more days to go.  Birkenhead will have an advantage, in that Manukau first have to play Three Kings  – again – on Wednesday night.

No matter what happens until Saturday night, Kevin Fallon and his team at Manukau United have already proven that South Auckland Football can be successful – and very attractive to watch at that – on the highest level of the game (of genuine club based football) in this country!

and isn’t that something!?