Group B: Match 6 - NZ beats gallant Tongans 2-0

AUCKLAND: A lacklustre performance against Tonga at North Harbour Stadium last night has put the pressure back on hosts New Zealand, favoured to win the Group B section of the 2004 OFC Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The 2-0 win means Vanuatu will likely lead the goal difference heading into the penultimate encounter of the two teams in the final round match on Thursday. Vanuatu is well placed to overtake the kiwis on goal difference when it plays American Samoa in round four on Tuesday while New Zealand has the bye.

But round three certainly proved to be a night of upsets (Samoa beating Solomon Islands 1-0 last night in Sydney over in Group A) as Tonga defied the pre-match predictions by holding New Zealand scoreless in the second half en route to a 0-2 loss. While New Zealand deservedly won, the Tongans could also hold their heads high for the attitude they showed in the match.

They tried to move forward on attack when they had possession and were well marshalled on defence through their two impressive performers of the tournament thus far - captain Sitenilesili Mafi and goalkeeper, Kavakava Manumua.

New Zealand had their fair share of scoring chances but the final execution up front was lacking and front men Brent Fisher and Shane Smeltz were surprisingly subdued.

Leo Bertos was one of the best for New Zealand down the right flank creating problems for the Tongans with his sharp turn of speed and dribbling skills. He deservedly scored New Zealand's first goal in the 35th minute showing good patience inside the box with Tongan defenders all around him to finish with precision.

Steve Turner, the other impressive performer for the Kiwis, scored New Zealand's second ten minutes later just before the break which came fortuitously after the referee missed a clear obstruction on the Tongan player in possession just moments before the goal was scored.

New Zealand had no answer in the second half despite enjoying a wealth of possession. However, the execution was not there and attacking moves were often hurried.

The Tongans defended stoutly and made some rare flurries into New Zealand territory managing several counter-attacks but never really threatening to score.

The highlight of the match came in the 75th minute as New Zealand was denied their third goal after Manumua made three consecutive saves as shots on goal from point blank range from first Leo Bertos then Jarrod Smith were thwarted. Manumua stayed on the ground hurt after Smith's last attempt but he was soon back up to finish the match.

The appreciative crowd, with a substantial vocal Tongan section, rightly applauded the Tongans off the field for their effort.

With a bye in round four, New Zealand now has a few days to find their scoring touch ahead of the Group B decider against Vanuatu on Thursday.

Match 6: New Zealand vs Tonga / Statistical Review

Full-time score: 2-0 (New Zealand)
Half-time score: 2-0 (New Zealand)

Date/Time: Sunday, 18 January - 7:30pm (NZT)

Scorers: (7) Leo Bertos 35'; (4) Steven Turner 45

Cautions: NZ - (18) Jarrod Smith 77
Expulsions: none

Weather: fine, cool
Crowd attendance: 250

Match Officials:
Referee: Constantinos Diomis (Australia)
Assistant Referee 1: John Peacock (Australia)
Assistant Referee 2: Benjamin Wilson (Australia)
Fourth Official: Andrew Moli (Solomon Islands)

Match Commissioner: Madiu Andrew (PNG)
Referee Inspector: Ken Wallace (New Zealand)

Team Line-ups (& Substitutes)

1 Glen MOSS (GK)
3 Tony LOCHHEAD (c)
4 Steven TURNER
6 Andrew BOYENS
10 Brent FISHER (-73')
11 Shane SMELTZ (-62')
12 Matthew ADAMS
13 Matthew WILSON
16 Allan PEARCE (-73')
20 Tamati WILLIAMS (RGK)
2 Rupesh PUNA
9 Tariq IMAM
14 Timothy BROWN (+73')
17 Neil JONES (+62')
18 Jarrod SMITH (+73')
19 Jason HAYNE

Coach: Ricki Herbert

1. Kavakava MANUMUA (GK)
4. Sitenilesili MAFI (c)
7. Mark UHATAHI (-45')
8. Kamaliele PAPANI
9. Unaloto Ki-Atenoa FEAO (-62')
12. Solomone MOA (-89')
13. Makatuu MOEAKI
15. Lisiate KOANETI
16. Lenitua-O-Lakepa MAFI
17. Folio MOEAKI
3. Ipeni FONUA
5. Petelo VAIHU
6. Maamalua TEVI (+45')
10. Filisione TAUFAHEMA
11. Lafaele MOALA
14. Penisimani PAU
18. Ika Takaimoana VAVE (+62')
19. Frederick SAAFI (+89')

Coach: Milan Jankovic


Comment Guidelines: The SportsTG Network is made up of players, families and passionate sports followers like you who have a strong opinion about sport. That's great - we want you to have your say and share your thoughts with the world. However, we have a few rules that you must follow to keep it fun for all. Please don't be rude, abusive, swear or vilify others. Apart from some pretty serious sport sanctions, we also can ban you and report you if things get out of hand. So play fair and have fun, and thanks for your contribution.