BY PETER JONES
Tasman United pulled off a miracle in Marlborough on Sunday, a last-gasp equaliser securing a 2-2 with highly-rated opponents Team Wellington.
The capital side dominated the early stages, scoring in the 20th minute through the lively Angus Kilkolly to take a 1-0 lead into the halftime break.
It could well have been a 2-0 advantage but for a point blank save by Tasman keeper Keegan Smith from Kilkolly on the stroke of halftime.
Although Tasman were energetic and enterprising, especially on their left flank through Kiernan Hughes-Mason, James McClay and Jake Williams, they were unable to create much work for Wellington keeper Scott Basalaj in the early stages of the second 45.
However, just when it appeared the visitors from over the strait were cruising to victory, even missing an open goal in the 74th minute when Andrew Bevin blazed over the crossbar with the net at his mercy, a Tasman counterattack turned the game on its head.
Syrian-born winger Ahmed Othman was on hand to finish off a slick piece of interpassing at close range and, in the 84th minute, the scores were level.
A midfield scuffle, which saw impressive Team Wellington defender Taylor Schrijvers left on the ground, saw Tasman defender Joe Ellul shown a red card, reducing the home side to 10 players.
Their opponents were quick to take advantage, Kilkolly scoring his second immediately through a thumping header from the resulting free kick.
But Tasman were not done with. As the clock ticked into referee’s time they attacked once more and again it was Osman who was on hand to tuck the ball in at the near post, leaving Basalaj no chance and delighting the 500-strong crowd.
Tasman head coach Andy Hedge felt the game was relatively even for the first 70 minutes.
“Team Wellington are coming off the back of the Oceania champs and the World Club champs, so are obviously a top-quality side. I thought we handled them well … the last five or 10 minutes was a bit ding dong but it was an exciting finish for the crowd.”
He found it hard to single out any players for special mention but noted the “marauding” runs for Slotemaker from the back near the end and Othman’s efforts.
“Ahmed is only 19 and has been a revelation this year … you are going to get the rough with the smooth sometimes with him trying his little tricks, but he has done very well today.
“All the others worked really hard … they’ll sleep well tonight.”
Othman was excited to bag two goals, following on from a brace against Hamilton last week.
He said the crowd’s support provided “positive energy to get back in the game”.
“In football you can’t give up, you have to play 90-95 minutes and that’s what happened today.”
He said his last-minute equaliser was pure instinct.
“Against a tough team like Team Wellington you won’t get a second chance … so when I got that ball, I was not thinking about missing.”
Tasman United 2 (Ahmed Othman 2)
Team Wellington 2 (Angus Kilkolly 2).