Tuesday 14 January 2014

Aston Villa 1-2 Arsenal [The Pub, Wellington, New Zealand]

Firstly, before discussing the close shave at Villa Park, I'd like to apologise for being less active on the airwaves than usual. You see, I'm in New Zealand, and the internet here is either non-existent or very slow. I've also had a pretty hectic scheduled, most of the weekend I was driving down to Dunedin in the South Island, and back again, to meet with Andrew Douglas, an Arsenal fan who was happy to put me up for a few days. You can learn more about Andrew's love for the cannon in a dedicated feature later on in the blog.

After arriving in Wellington late on Thursday night from Brisbane, I totalled six hours sleep before catching the ferry on Friday night across the Cook Strait to Picton on the South Island. There simply isn't a better way to get your first sight of the South Island than on the Interislander.

Not your typical ferry ride.
Unbelievably, the drive down to Dunedin was even more spectacular. Winding two-way roads the whole way there, it was as if the New Zealand Tourist Board had set up some CGI wizardry for my arrival, especially between Kaikoura and Christchurch, where icy blue seas blended effortlessly on the left with steep cliffs, and green pastures complimented the distant Southern Alps on the right. If there was just one moment on my global journey that I'd feel ashamed not to have an SLR camera with me, this would surely be it. I've driven a small part of the Great Ocean Road in South Australia/Victoria, and the infamous US Highway 1, but this road is just on another level. I've been fortunate to drive some of the world's greatest thoroughfares but this is by far the best I've ever experienced. And the pictures here simply don't do it any justice.

New Zealand at her finest.
Having made it down to Dunedin in one fell swoop, I spent a full day and a drunken night in the 'Edinburgh of the South' with Andrew and his family. It's a great little university town and definitely compares to its namesake back in Scotland. Unfortunately I didn't have anywhere near enough time in the South Island before having to drive back up to Picton to get the return ferry yesterday. But not without a quick visit to Christchurch to see how the 2011 earthquake decimated half the city. Once again I was pushed for time so didn't get to see much, but it was still a brutal reminder of just how destructive mother nature can be.

So, having made it back to the North Island late last night, the challenge of watching every Arsenal game of the season resumed. The venue of choice for the Aston Villa game was at a pub inventively named 'The Pub' on The Terrace in Wellington. In New Zealand, the only way to watch the Premier League live is online, as there is no dedicated TV Channel showing games. Fortunately, most of the pubs that show live sports will have a 'Premier League Pass' that enables them to show games online. For us though, it was a close-call to missing the start of my first Premier League game as the person looking after the computer at The Pub had no idea how to use a computer. We managed to get the stream up and running, thirty seconds prior to kickoff. Phew!

The first half performance was all Arsenal of course, capped off with two fantastic team goals to put us in control of the game. But that Benteke header made the final twenty minutes of the second a lot more uncomfortable than it should have been. Still, we're back to the summit of the Premier League and we can be happy with the way we managed to see the game out, despite being under considerable pressure from a motivated Aston Villa side.