|Source: OFC MEDIA
|New Zealand’s Junior All Whites have beaten their touring Fiji U-20 counterparts 4-1 to claim their second resounding victory in as many days at North Harbour Stadium this evening.
After a slow start on Sunday, New Zealand wasted no time getting down to business at the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup final venue with a number of decent efforts flying at the target within the first five minutes of play.
Fiji’s defence did well to hold out the continuous pressure from the Kiwi attack force which included Ipswich Town Academy player Monty Patterson, the Wellington Phoenix’s Alex Rufer and a slew of ASB Premiership players, notably Joel Stevens who made some blinding runs into the penalty area.
Despite best efforts, the New Zealanders were denied either by Fiji goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube or some slightly off-target shots or ill-timed crosses. That changed just 23 minutes in when Andre de Jong was brought down just outside the area, earning a free kick in dangerous territory.
2013 OFC U-17 Golden Boot and joint Golden Ball winner Patterson stepped up and delivered a ball that crept up over the wall before dropping neatly behind the keeper to open the scoring. Less than five minutes later he was brought down in the box by Iosefo Verevou and calmly slotted home the resulting penalty for his second of the night.
Three minutes before the break Fiji found themselves on the back foot as a reckless tackle from Narendra Rao earned him a red card from referee Campbell-Kirk Waugh.
While they finished the first half on the ultimate low, the Fiji U-20 side restarted with the ultimate high as Antonio Tuivuna found the back of the net two minutes into the second period.
It was a much more subdued half as Fiji found themselves making a lot more forays into the New Zealand half, while New Zealand were forced to do some defending.
Eventually the man-advantage became too much for the Fijians as New Zealand made some changes and fresh legs eventually made the difference. Substitute Andrew Blake volleyed home a third for the Junior All Whites with five minutes left on the clock before fellow substitute Tomislav Trbuhovic added a fourth in the last minute of additional time.
Despite the win New Zealand U-20 coach Darren Bazeley wasn’t content with the overall performance from his side.
“I think it was a not so good performance from us today. I think Fiji worked really hard and they were very organised defensively and made it very hard for us,” Bazeley says.
“They compacted the defence and got numbers behind the ball and I didn’t think we were good enough in our possession or our decision making to break them down.
“To be honest I’m a little disappointed in our performance tonight we need to play better, we need to be better because we’re going to come up against better teams.
“But credit to Fiji, they made it hard for us and did frustrate us, but it just shows our boys that they’ve got a lot of work to do to get to the next level.”
However for Fiji’s Ravinesh Kumar it was a good loss as his side showed some improvements from Sunday, and managed to score against their more fancied, more experienced opponents.
“They played with ten men and did really well. They kept and maintained the 2-1 scoreline and we were about to capitalise but unfortunately we gave away simple balls and they were able to add two more,” Kumar says.
“We are happy because they are keeping possession in this game and much more confident.”
The encounter is part of New Zealand’s early preparations for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2015, for which they qualify as hosts, and they will continue their build-up against Papua New Guinea U-20 on Thursday.
For Fiji it is the culmination of a 17-day tour of New Zealand as they prepare for the 2014 OFC U-20 Championship where they hope to qualify for their first FIFA tournament.
“I would say we are happy with the preparations because they played against the Junior All Whites and they played well. We are ready I think for the Championship, a little bit of things to work on like set-pieces but otherwise it’s good.”
The 2014 OFC U-20 Championship will be held in Suva, Fiji from 23-31 May.