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All Whites start OFC Nations Cup with win

Alex Rufer watches the ball in the 3-0 win over Solomon Islands in the OFC Nations Cup
Alex Rufer keeps his eye on the ball in the All Whites 3-0 win over Solomon Islands in the OFC Nations Cup. PHOTO: OFC MEDIA

An inexperienced All Whites team have won their opening game of the OFC Nations Cup against the Solomon Islands 3-0.

The All Whites will now meet Vanuatu on Friday to decide who finishes top of Group A, with both sides assured of a semi-final place.


New Zealand fielded two debutants, with goalkeeper Alex Paulsen and Sam Sutton making their international bows, while the Solomon Islands made four changes from their loss to Vanuatu on Saturday.

Before the match, a minute's silence was observed for former New Zealand Football chief executive Bob Patterson, who was a key figure in football in his home country and across the Oceania Football Confederation.

The Solomon Islands had caused New Zealand teams problems in the past and coach Darren Bazeley was keen for his young team to make an early mark.

Bazeley got his dream start when a quick Ben Waine double took the sting out of the match after only 11 minutes.

Plymouth Argyle forward had only scored once before in his previous 13 internationals, but doubled that tally after five minutes when he turned his defender to rifle home from close range.

Waine quickly doubled the lead six minutes later following a beautiful assist from Tim Payne, virtually ending the last hopes of progressing to the semi-finals for the Solomon Islands.

The Solomon Islands refused to throw in the towel and kept pushing forward when possible, which was nearly rewarded when Gagame Feni's stinging shot nearly found the top corner.

Coach Moli switched to a more attacking line-up as the game wore on, bringing on trump card Le'ai, but the New Zealand defence, with 20-year-old Finn Surman and 19-year-old Tyler Bindon in the centre, stood firm against the increased the increased pressure.

Surman was allowed a free header from a New Zealand corner only to be denied by goalkeeper Phillip Mango who them dropped the ball for Kosta Barbarouses who converted from close range to make it three.

Solomons Islands worked hard to get back into the match, but Le'ai saw his shot go wide and Javin Alick's long range effort left goalkeeper Paulsen untroubled.

Late in the game Bazeley gave Jesse Randall, Oskar van Hattum, Lukas Kelly-Heald and Fin Conchie their first cap for New Zealand.


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