Central Win National League Grand Final

Central Win National League Grand Final

Glenn Eie was the toast of Central United on September 8, as his second half hat-trick inspired his side to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over premiership phase champions Miramar Rangers in the Southern Trust National League Grand Final at North Harbour Stadium.

Central United 3 Miramar Rangers 2
North Harbour Stadium

by Jeremy Ruane

Photo by Michael Stephen

Glenn Eie was the toast of Central United on September 8, as his second half hat-trick inspired his side to a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over premiership phase champions Miramar Rangers in the Southern Trust National League Grand Final at North Harbour Stadium.
But it was a result which the newly-crowned national champions hardly looked like recording in the first half of this engaging encounter, which took place on a bumpy pitch which more than one Central player suggested was "worse than last year", when they contested the Chatham Cup Final.
The Auckland team's first forty-five minutes can best be summed up in one word - passionless. Quite literally, they didn't fire a single shot on goal, au contraire their opponents, whose lone goal did not reflect their dominance of proceedings in the opening half of the match.
Miramar had enough chances to win two games over the entire ninety minutes, but they didn't take enough of the openings they created, and ultimately, it cost them dearly - Stu Jacobs' charges were devastated come Bruce Grimshaw's final whistle, the best team over the eighteen game league competition completing their campaign with nothing to show for their efforts.
And yet, it could have been so different, had Geoff Brown not fired wildly over the crossbar from six yards out in the sixth minute, on receipt of Graham Little's cross after the co-winner - with Thomas Edge - of the Golden Boot had been picked out on the right by Tariq Imam's perceptive pass.
An early goal would have helped Miramar's cause no end. They continued to pursue it, with Imam's teasing cross-shot tipped over the crossbar by Ross Nicholson six minutes later, before the goalkeeper denied the same player eighteen minutes later, four minutes after Little had volleyed wide after Derek Warke's cross had created consternation in Central's rearguard.

Greg Uhlmann, Glen Eie, Michael Ridenton
Photo by Michael Stephen

In the 26th minute, the goal Rangers had long threatened finally came to pass. David Johnston's cross from a short corner saw Nicholson come off his line to gather the ball. His team-mate, Greg Uhlmann, jumped in the queue before the custodian, but Brown nipped in front of the pair of them, and sent his header bulleting into the gaping goal from eight yards.
Central's rearguard was somewhat shaky for a few minutes thereafter, in which time Tim Butterfield and Imam both gave them reason to panic, with a shot and teasing cross respectively.
Warke went close with a difficult headed chance six minutes before the interval, following Little's cross on receipt of a Butterfield pass, while right on half-time, Brown directed a close-range drive straight at Nicholson, who was by far the busier of the goalkeepers in the opening stanza.
Bannatyne had plucked a few crosses out of the air, but had had little else to do in the first half, but just twenty-eight seconds into the second spell, he could only look on in horror as the ball careered past him en route to the back of his net.
The player responsible for Central's first shot on goal in the entire match was Eie, whose career to date has, most notably, seen him on the books of Lillestrom, one of the leading teams in his native Norway. Bruce Hill and Daniel Aliaga worked the opening straight from the kick-off, the latter's threaded through ball releasing Eie through Rangers' rearguard, and from twenty yards, he thundered home a beauty to level the scores.
Miramar, quite simply, didn't know what had hit them, as some decidedly choice half-time words from Central's mentor, Paul Marshall, had the desired effect, although probably a little sooner than even the ever-vocal encourager-par-excellence would have expected.
Rangers looked to respond, but Central had their tails up - it was like watching a completely different team from that which had fronted in the first half. In the 54th minute, Brian Hawke scrambled the ball out of defence to Eie, lurking wide on the left. His diagonal run took him across field, and his defence-splitting pass sent Hamish Carmody haring through.

Paul Marshall
Photo by Michael Stephen

Bannatyne hurtled off his line to save with his legs near the edge of the penalty area, the rebound arcing dangerously goalwards before Nic Longley could get in a telling clearance, despite the high-footed challenge of Campbell Banks.
Carmody's resulting corner was flapped at by Bannatyne, and Banks, on the far post, directed the ball into the goalmouth. With Rangers' defence at sixes and sevens, Uhlmann and Eie converged on the ball, the latter taking responsibility. He also took an air-shot, the ball rolling harmlessly past the right-hand post of a decidedly relieved goalkeeper.
Bannatyne capably dealt with a twenty-five yarder from Banks in the 59th minute, but was rendered helpless a minute later by Eie once again. Aliaga - the youngster had a super game in midfield - was again the launch-pad, steering the ball to Banks on half-way. Eie was ahead of his striking partner, who promptly slid a pass forward which, when the Norwegian received it, found him in an offside position.
But when Banks released his pass, video evidence showed that Michael McKinley was keeping Eie onside ... goalwards he charged, just Bannatyne standing between the Norwegian and his, and Central's, second goal of the Grand Final. The goalkeeper didn't have a chance - 2-1 to the Aucklanders, the game transformed by an amazing turnaround in fortunes.
Bannatyne denied Eie his hat-trick goal when plucking a Carmody cross off the striker's head in the 63rd minute, from which a shell-shocked Miramar found encouragement. Longley fired a twenty-five yarder at Nicholson soon after, seconds before David Batty headed a Butterfield free-kick down and inches past Central's right-hand post.
In the 67th minute, the plot twisted once more, as Brown levelled the scores. Johnston's free-kick from the left, following a foul by Banks which saw him earn the game's only caution, was flicked on by Little for Brown, who slid in to squeeze the ball under the diving Nicholson - 2-2, and the impetus clearly swinging back in Miramar's favour.

Glen Eie
Photo by Michael Stephen

Nicholson spectacularly tipped a Brown header over the crossbar in the 71st minute, seconds after which Butterfield blazed over from ten yards. Brown then squandered another chance to complete his hat-trick, when hooking the ball wide of the advancing Nicholson, but wide of the mark, after Batty's probing pass had seen the striker slip through on the blindside of Central's defence.
The young marksman couldn't believe his luck eleven minutes from time, Little and Johnston combining to create a chance for Brown which he slipped past the far post with Nicholson beaten all ends up.
It was to be the youngster's last throw of the dice, for he was replaced five minutes from time by Kevin Thompson. So if there was going to be a Grand Final hat-trick, Eie was now the man upon whom those hopes fell, and within a minute ...
Central had certainly been under the cosh since Miramar drew level, but they had weathered the storm, and when Hawke galloped forward down the left four minutes from time, it brought his defensive team-mates a few seconds' respite to reorganise themselves. Daniel Koprivcic came up in support of the winger, who steered the ball back to the substitute, from whom a cross into the danger zone duly emanated.
It picked out Aliaga, who, for a brief moment, found himself with a clean sight of goal near the penalty spot. But Longley and McKinley quickly crowded him out, their combined challenge seeing the ball squirt loose to their left, Aliaga's right.
Bannatyne came hurtling off his line in an instant, for to Aliaga's right lurked danger, in the form of Eie. The goalkeeper's momentum saw the striker absolutely skittled by the burly custodian as they collided, but while Bannatyne was charging forward, Eie had prodded the ball under him, and into the net it crept - 3-2 Central, and how their many fans loved it, as evidenced by the passion-filled, emotion-charged "Central Roar" which followed.
Any hopes of a further Rangers' riposte were now fast receding, time now as much of an opponent as the Auckland team. Try as they might, the Wellingtonians couldn't come again, and the sound of the final whistle brought undisguised delight to the bulk of the 2500-odd folk present.
For Central were national champions for the second time in three years, courtesy their Norwegian striker - Eie, by gum!!

Central: Nicholson; Uhlmann, Thompson, Stick; Carmody (Greenhalgh, 77), Hill, Vuksich (Major, 70), Aliaga, Hawke; Banks (booked, 66) (Koprivcic,
70), Eie

Miramar: Bannatyne; Warke, McKinley, Longley; Woodside, Butterfield, Batty, Imam (Brydon, 77), Johnston; Little, Brown (Thompson, 85)

Referee: Bruce Grimshaw


Comments are closed.