New Zealand superior in Oceania
Chris Killen of New Zealand (L) and Hardies Aengari (R) of the Solomon Islands compete for the ball
AUCKLAND, New Zealand ● New Zealand asserted its superiority in the Oceania confederation when it beat the Solomon Islands 6-1 on Tuesday in regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Striker Shane Smeltz opened the scoring after 12 minutes when he was allowed space to side-foot Leo Bertos’ corner into the net at the far post.
Costa Barbarouses added a second, rounding goalkeeper Samson Koti and knocking the ball home in the 25th minute.
After taking a 2-0 lead to halftime, New Zealand was shocked when Henry Fa’arodo pulled one back for the Solomon Islands, scoring from Leslie Nate’s low cross to make it 2-1.
New Zealand hit back immediately through Chris Killen, then rattled in goals to Tony Lochhead – his first in 60 internationals – Marco Rojas and Chris Wood.
Tuesday’s win restored New Zealand’s status as Oceania’s top team, having finished only third at the eight-team Oceania Nations Cup in the Solomon Islands earlier this year.
New Zealand drew with the Solomon Islands in pool play at that tournament and was beaten by New Caledonia in the semifinals before scraping past the Solomons 4-3 in a playoff for third place.
New Zealand recovered its form to beat New Caledonia 2-0 in their opening match of the third stage of World Cup qualifying last week, while the Solomons had a 2-0 win over Oceania Nations Cup champions Tahiti.
New Zealand’s win on Tuesday leaves it the only unbeaten team in the four-team qualifying competition after two rounds. Tahiti was due to play New Caledonia in a second round match later on Tuesday local time.
The current stage of Oceania qualifying involves the four semifinalists from the Nations Cup who meet in home-and-away matches in a round-robin which continues until March.
The top team plays the fifth-placed team from the CONCACAF confederation for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
New Zealand captain and Queen’s Park Rangers defender Ryan Nelsen was happy with his team’s performance in wet and cold conditions.
“Probably in the first 30 minutes it was a bit hard,” Nelsen said. “We knew they’d throw people at us up top defensively and try to pressure us.
“We had to go back to front pretty quickly and we knew if we got the timing right we’d get in behind them. It didn’t work in the first half as we’d like but in the second half we ground them down.”
The next round of matches takes place in mid-October.