16 Dec 2018

Canterbury claim title in extra-time

5:47 pm on 16 December 2018

The Canterbury United Pride have claimed their fourth National Women's Football League title in six years with an enthralling 3-2 victory over the Northern Lights after extra-time.

Canterbury captain Annalie Longo celebrates a goal.

Canterbury captain Annalie Longo celebrates a goal. Photo: Photosport

While Monique Barker notched the deciding strike, competition MVP Annalie Longo proved the difference between a pair of evenly-matched teams at Trusts Arena in West Auckland on Sunday.

Football Ferns midfielder Longo scored twice in the first half as Canterbury went on to bring the title back to Christchurch in thrilling fashion.

A member of the history-making New Zealand team at the recent Women's Under-17 World Cup, Rennie also played a key role in the win, having a hand in all three goals for the Pride.

"It feels amazing, I'm just over the moon with the campaign as a whole and then today's 120 minutes of battling hard," Canterbury coach Alana Gunn said.

"It was a thrilling game and I think it showed that both teams were full of quality to take it to extra-time like that. We managed to get into the lead and then were happy to I guess take a battering and holding it out."

Victory appeared a long way off for the visitors early on as Northern began brightly and took the lead when Jane Barnett capitalised on some hesitant defending to drove home a strike from just inside the box.

But the minor premiers were only in front for ten minutes, Longo equalising when the Lights failed to clear a Rennie cross and the Football Ferns playmaker pounced on the loose ball to fire it past goalkeeper Anna Leat.

Longo had her second just past the hour mark when Rennie again caused problems for Northern, picking up an under-hit pass before feeding her captain to slot home from close range.

The South Islanders weren't able to go into the break a goal up, though, Northern captain Claudia Bunge getting her head to a deep corner with just five minutes left on the clock to make it 2-2.

The second half failed to live up to the goal-laden excitement of the first but was just as gripping.

With the heat taking its toll and many players with heavy legs after recently returning from international duty, clear-cut chances proved hard to come by and extra time was needed to finally separate the sides.

The thorn in Northern's side again proved to be Rennie, the pacey winger breaking down the right and evading a challenge before crossing for substitute Barker to tuck away what proved to be the winner towards the end of the first half of extra time.

"It's obviously disappointing for us because we felt like we could have got more out of the game," Northern coach Gemma Lewis admitted.

"But, at the same time, the girls put a shift in and did everything they could.

"I didn't know if we were going to be able to last extra time but we actually ended up being the more dominant team and really went for it.

"So I'm super-proud of them, it's disappointing but we'll reflect on this and I'm sure we'll see it as a successful campaign."