Auckland City beat Waitakere (3-2) only after out psyching the latter on Monday night at Kiwitea Stadium.Auckland City beat Waitakere (3-2) only after out psyching the latter on Monday night at Kiwitea Stadium. Auckland obviously has designed its game around targeting Waitakere's island imports to gain their numerical advantage which eventually dethroned the NZ Football championship minor premiers.
On a night when both teams were equally competitive in all departments, Auckland City went for psychological tactics to beat Waitakere. And the obvious target was the Solomon Islands internationals.
In fact, even before Menapi was given his matching order, there were scuffles and fowl play on Menapi from the start of game. Waitakere's coach was reported as saying in the nzfc website, "I've been told it was a justifiable red card but the fact that he (Menapi) had been elbowed twice before that - which is also supposed to be a red card - does stick in the throat a little bit."
"He is going to be upset. He is a very placid character but he has taken a lot of punishment in the opening 25 minutes and he was never protected but you can't take the law into your own hands."
The Auckland players had probably been given the instruction in the changing room to go at Menapi and Suri. George Suri also had a terrible night he may want to forget. He was also yellow carded and it was from one of his back passes that Auckland strikers intercepted to score their second goal.
Auckland players knew by disturbing the two's style of play it would generally affect Waitakere United's game. And affect their game it did. Waitakere Coach Steve Cain admittedly saying, "I don't think we deserved to win so it's not hard to take because it was a fair result. We never came to the races today. We made too many individual mistakes and we never really got going as a team, of course the sending off had an influence but the better team won."
Auckland City's win also ended Totori, Maemae and Sale's Manawatu of securing the second spot allocated for New Zealand teams in the 2008 Oceania Club Championship. As league runners-up, Manawatu needed Waitakere to win the final to grab New Zealand's second place in the continental championship.
Solomon Islands as soccer loving nation could learn from this incident? It should teach us many lessons. Obviously, it reminds us of the ugly side of soccer, that it does not only involve skills. To win it may need more than skills. Our reliance on skills will not take us far in international competition. We need a balance between skills and resilient attitude in tough matches where the approach will never be to our liking. We need to strike the balance between skills and toughness. Our players need more mental training and coaching than skills. Sadly, mental training has often been given very little attention compared to skills. Ninety-nine percent of the training sessions are focus on skills, no wonder our players loose focus easily under ugly tactics as in the case of Menapi in the incident above. We hope and pray that the soccer's administrators will address this issue before our teams fly out to any future overseas competitions.