A clarifying thought came to me as I saw Waitakere United’s Jason Hayne come on for Christopher Bale somewhere around the 60th minute. When you’re part of team to whom fell the misfortune of demonstrating the gap between professionals and part-timers, well, what do you have to lose? Go out there loose, get a high from playing against people on a higher level in front of thousands, and just…play. This is supposed to be fun, dammit.
Hayne’s substitution came ten minutes or so after Iran’s Sepahan scored its third, and final, goal on their way to a 3-1 win. Abudl Wahab Abu Al Hail put a sliced, outward curve on the long-range shot, which made a slow-rolling mockery of the Waitakere ‘keeper’s decision to try to catch it. The irony of that particular moment grew from the fact that, if forced to choose between the two ‘keepers on the field – Waitakere’s Simon Eaddy and Sepahan’s Mohammad Savari – I would go with Eaddy in a heartbeat…that precise moment excepted, of course.
In goal was just about the only spot on the field where Waitakere enjoyed an advantage. The Iranian side passed more crisply, moved smarter off the ball and found a couple ways around – or, worse, through – the New Zealanders’ (hereafter, Kiwis) back line. Forget the final score for a second; a more relevant statistic appeared during the first half, when my TV told me that Sepahan enjoyed a 71-to-29% advantage in possession. Even with the game ending on a more equitable 66-to-34 breakdown, that edge proved more telling than usual. Waitakere continually gave away the ball or, where their key forward, Benjamin Totori, was concerned, dribbled into dead-ends.
Given that, the late rally the New Zealanders (hereafter, Kiwis) put together seems a little more impressive. Doubly impressive, in fact, given that they were part-timers going against full pros; normally, one would expect the professionals to gain the advantage as the game wears on. This goes back to my theory that the Kiwis decided to make their one-game on the global stage more about getting kicks than getting results. Whatever happened, they got forward more and, hence, around Sepahan’s back line a couple times – most notably when Totori found some use for his soloist’s skills. Continue reading