With five men’s teams this season, three of them received byes straight into the semi-final, leaving Paroa and Westport Cos the unlucky two teams that have the longer potential road to the final. With Westport dominant so far in the first-round competition, few would have predicted the drama that followed.
The knock-out cup games don’t allow for rolling substitutions during the game, unlike the league games. This was irrelevant to Paroa on the day as they didn’t bring any subs. Paroa did take the lead after 15 minutes after Anton Merkushev won and then converted a penalty. Westport did get the attack down the other end though and after a corner wasn’t cleared by the Paroa defence, Given Suleman got to the free ball and smashed it into the net for the equaliser. Ten minutes later Westport then took their turn at being in lead after a nice counter attack was finished off by a headed goal by Devin Signal. The league’s top scorer, Ben Anderson, evened things up once again after knocking the ball past Westport’s last defender and beating Atila ‘Fox’ OIiveira in the Westport goal. Paroa’s defence continued to work well. Westport kept up their attacking runs but fell foul of being offside several times. Niki Emery in the Paroa goal was also alert to several Westport crosses and long balls. 2-2 at half-time.
Tristan Howard suffered an injury after 60 minutes and so had to leave his team with 10 players for the remainder of the game. Around the 70-minute mark Westport had another corner crossed to the far post and while a Westport player did make contact and send a somewhat weak effort in the direction of the goal, Billy Dempster’s clearance went straight into the net to put Westport ahead for the second time. Westport kept their lead for over 10 minutes, but with nothing to lose Paroa started to push for their third. With seven minutes left Paroa were awarded their second penalty of the game and once again Merkushev faced off against Oliveira. This time it was Oliveira who made the save. Then, with one-minute left on the clock, Paroa had a last-ditch corner. The ball pinged from one side of the box to the other, then a final cross found Merkushev in the centre of the penalty box, who smashed the ball into the net to make it 3-3 and force the game into extra time.
The first 15-minute half saw no goals. Paroa, with their ten men, rarely had much time attacking until one opportunity in the second half of extra time. Another cross and another clearance that went straight to Merkushev who fired into top corner from outside the box. With 10 minutes remaining, Westport went all out in attack. Amazingly, yet another equaliser was to come, this time it was Dan Maloney on hand to grab the eighth goal of the game with about 2 minutes left, to make the score 4-4.
On to penalties. Westport opted to shoot first. Each team had their five penalties and both teams managed to only score two each, and so onwards it went to sudden death. Westport’s sixth penalty hit the crossbar, so it was left to Paroa’s Jayden Briggs who put his effort away to win the penalty shoot-out 3-2 for Paroa.