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NWL Report: Southern Utd 3 - 2 Auckland Football Fed

NWL MATCH REPORT: Southern United 3-2 Auckland Football Federation

Southern United have pulled off an incredible and historic victory in the opening round of the 2017 National Women's League, beating Auckland 3-2 under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

It was a fascinating battle, with the plucky Southern side repeatedly taking the lead before a defiant Auckland fought back to try and spoil the party. The local side avoided the heartbreak of recent years and held on to record their first national league victory in over four years.

Right from kickoff, Southern were looking pumped and rattled the visitors. Defender Kelsey Kennard had the first good chance, heading into the side netting from an attacking corner.

Moments later, midfielder Shontelle Smith sent a long-range free kick agonisingly over the crossbar. Smith went even closer in similar fashion minutes later.

In an entertaining match, Auckland were creating chances of their own, with Southern goalkeeper Tessa Nicol called into action with a save after an impressive run and shot from Auckland's Hannah Blake. Youngster Britney Cunningham-Lee also looked dangerous for the visitors.

Southern were playing with a great cohesion, and experienced midfielders Eleanor Isaac and Elise Mamanu-Gray covered every blade of grass as they worked just as hard defensively as on attack.

Southern's endeavour was rewarded on 32 minutes, when an Auckland handball gave Smith the chance to open the scoring from the penalty spot, and she drove a powerful shot past a helpless Nadia Olla in the Auckland goal.

Southern took the lead into halftime, but Auckland looked a different side after the break and quickly equalised through the otherwise quiet Ferns striker Steph Skilton.

Southern continued to press on though and in the 60th minute Isaac's hard work was rewarded when she looped a shot over Olla to reclaim the lead.

This lead only lasted nine minutes though, as Auckland scrambled a shot past Nicol to tie it up at 2-2.

Both goalkeepers pulled off impressive saves as both teams desperately looked for a winner, and Kennard again went close with a header from a corner, striking the post.

It wasn't until the 85th minute when striker Renee Bacon pulled off something special - burying a left-footed shot on the turn to once again give the home side the lead.

Despite Auckland's best efforts, Southern hung on to claim a brilliant victory to reward the 400-strong crowd in attendance at the Stadium.

It was the perfect start for new coach Terry Parle, and a big confidence booster to start the season.

"I Can't ask for more", said Parle after the match. "I'm really pleased with our grit,determination, and the absolutely fantastic attitude the girls have shown".

"No team's going to have it easy against us and we believe that we can give everybody a game and we'll be difficult to defeat - and we've proven it today."

Auckland coach Gemma Lewis was gracious in defeat and proud of the fight shown from her young side. "It was a really exciting football game and both teams played some amazing football. It was one of the matches that you wanted to be here to watch because it was certainly an exciting game. We've had battles with them for the past few years.

"The result doesn't completely surprise me to be honest but the calibre of players that were out here and the fight they've shown, they've all shown some character and some great football as well".

Outstanding Southern United midfielder Eleanor Isaac summed up the feeling after the game. "It's an insane feeling, it's so good, we felt ready but nothing can really prepare you for the first game of the season. We believed in ourselves, and I'm so proud of all the girls."

Southern's next National Women's League match is next Sunday afternoon in Palmerston North, when they face a Central side that lost 5-1 earlier today to a strong Northern Football Fed side.

Southern United's next home match is on Sunday October 28th, when they host WaiBOP at Tahuna Park.