OFC: New Zealand stamped their authority on Group B by brushing aside Vanuatu 5-0 while Fiji kept their OFC Nations Cup hopes alive with a hard fought 1-0 win over the Solomon Islands on Match Day 3 of the competition at Sir John Guise Stadium Tuesday evening.
Following their comprehensive win the All Whites are virtually guaranteed top spot in their group while Vanuatu’s dreams of progressing even through to the next stage of World Cup qualifying took a major dent.
Anthony Hudson’s men were at their clinical best in the first half against their Melanesian rivals scoring five times before the break.
Skipper Chris Wood started the ball rolling with two quick goals before Michael McGlinchey made it 3-0 inside ten minutes.
Wood left the field with an injury early on in the piece passing the captain’s armband to his veteran strike partner Rory Fallon, who wasted no time in putting the result beyond any doubt with the All Whites’ fourth in the 19th minute.
Wood’s replacement Kosta Barbarouses put the icing on the cake for New Zealand with a smart finish at the stroke of half time.
Playing for pride, Vanuatu was determined to stem the tide and Moise Poida’s men showed a lot of heart and fighting spirit to keep New Zealand scoreless in the second 45.
Vanuatu grew in confidence as the game progressed with both Brian Kaltack and Bill Nicholls forcing of number of good saves from All Whites keeper Stefan Marinovic.
Following a far more closely contested second half, All Whites coach Anthony Hudson was satisfied with the result.
“We are pleased with 5-0. It’s about winning, we won 5-0 and kept a clean sheet, we are happy,” he said.
Meanwhile his Vanuatu counterpart Moise Poida couldn’t hide his frustration with his side’s first half performance.
“The problem is when we played against Solomon Islands we only played the second half – same thing today. We learn in the first half, and we play in the second. We didn’t come here to learn though, we came here to play and compete. Even though this team is young it’s the best Vanuatu team, it’s just inexperienced,” he lamented.
“A real lack of concentration. We were too slow to think and even though we talked and talked, we were not listening. That’s the big problem.”
Fiji skipper Roy Krishna was on target from the penalty spot for the second game in a row to get his side’s campaign back on track.
Desperate to bounce back from their 3-1 defeat to New Zealand the Fijians were locked in a tight tussle with the Solomon Islands for most of their encounter.
In a keenly contested first half veteran Solomons striker Benjamin Totori was the first to come close to scoring with a 23rd minute drive that hit the crossbar.
Fiji’s goalkeeper Benaminio Mateinaqara produced two crucial saves to deny both Jerry Donga and Totori in one-on-one situations before Roy Krishna threatened at the other end to conclude the first half.
The game has opened up after the break as both sides were searching for a crucial blow.
Totori and Micah Lea’alafa combined well on the left flank for the Solomons while Krishna was a constant threat with his darting runs in Fiji’s final third.
It was one of those runs by Krishna which proved to be decisive in the 85th minute when the Fiji captain was fouled by goalkeeper Samson Koti inside the Solomons penalty area.
For the second game in a row Krishna stood up to take the spot kick and he gave no chance to Koti who didn’t even move as the ball passed him on his left.
Fiji coach Frank Farina admitted very little separated the two sides.
“The game ebbed and flowed. I thought we started well and Solomons had the better of the end of the first half. But we held on and I think second half we came out well. I was happy with the way the boys held on and stood strong,” he said.
Meanwhile Solomons coach Moses Toata was philosophical in defeat.
“I’m a bit disappointed with today especially as we controlled most of the game. But then we slipped and got that penalty and it’s something we can all learn from.”
We will be looking to work on first our errors and mistakes then we will watch the video of New Zealand. I think New Zealand played differently in each match. They have a lot of good players in their team but then so do we.
Following two rounds in Group B New Zealand are in the driving seat with maximum six points while both Fiji and the Solomons are on three points with everything still to play for.
Fiji will play Vanuatu while the Solomons face New Zealand to decide the top two spots in Group B on Saturday.
The action at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup will continue today from 4pm local time when hosts Papua New Guinea play Tahiti at Port Moresby’s Sir John Guise Stadium.
In the day’s second match New Caledonia will meet Group A rivals Samoa at 7pm.