The Danny Hay-coached New Zealand U-17 side has kicked off its bid to qualify for the World Cup in ideal fashion with a comprehensive 11-0 victory over a hard-working Samoa outfit in stifling heat at Stade Pater in Papeete, Tahiti this afternoon.
Despite the wide winning margin, the Kiwis did not have things all their own way in their opening Group B match of the OFC U-17 Championship with Samoa enjoying a particularly good spell at the start of the second period before the score blew out in the closing stages.
“We’re obviously pleased that we got the result and the three points,” Hay said. “That was the most important thing and the performance at times was really good.”
Much of the damage was done by sharp-shooting duo Charles Spragg and Matthew Palmer, who both scored hat-tricks, while Willem Ebbinge struck a brace and Kingsley Sinclair, Oliver Whyte and captain Max Mata also got on the scoresheet.
The temperature at pitch level was so hot that a drinks break had to be taken midway through each half and Hay felt those conditions combined with the never-say-die attitude of Samoa to give his charges a challenging afternoon.
“It was tough for the boys, it was pretty warm there throughout the middle of the game,” he said.
“But, in general, I thought both teams played the game in really good spirit and I thought Samoa at the beginning of the second half were outstanding. They worked really hard so a lot of credit has to go to them because they made it difficult for our boys – the scoreline just blew out towards the end.”
New Zealand got off to the perfect start in just the fifth minute when Ebbinge put the tournament’s defending champions in front from an indirect free kick and the midfielder had his second just a few moments later after following up an attempted clearance. A third goal arrived on 20 minutes when a Palmer cross was sweetly finished by Spragg and another came within seconds when Sinclair sent a low drive in at the back post.
At 4-0 up with only a quarter of the game gone, Hay’s side was threatening to run riot but Samoa offered more resilience from that point on and it took until just before the break for New Zealand to hit again, Spragg helping himself to a second with another excellent finish.
Samoa refused to roll over in the second half and kept New Zealand scoreless until there were just over 20 minutes remaining, at which stage the floodgates opened. Palmer scored twice in quick succession – one a looping header and the other a low strike – before the dying moments proved really damaging for Samoa. Substitute Whyte cut in and found the net with a superb solo effort in the 86th minute while skipper Mata joined the fun two minutes later and Palmer and Spragg both completed their hat-tricks in stoppage time.
“I’m pleased but it’s just a start. We set our standards very high so hopefully we’re going to build into the tournament and get better and better as it goes along,” Hay said.
“We know there’s going to be a lot of difficult games coming up and some very good teams that we’re going to have to face.”
New Zealand will be in action again at the OFC U-17 Championship when they take on Solomon Islands on Thursday 16 February at 3pm (NZT).
New Zealand 11 (Willem Ebbinge 5’, 10’, Charles Spragg 20’, 40’, 90’ + 4’, Kingsley Sinclair 21’, Matthew Palmer 67’, 70’, 90’ + 3’, Oliver Whyte 86’, Max Mata 88’)
New Zealand: 1. Dylan Bennett (GK), 2. Jordan Spain (yellow card 64’), 3. Josh Rogerson, 4. Liberato Cacace, 5. Jake Williams (Ben Deeley 46’), 8. Oliver Duncan (Leon Van Den Hoven 46’), 9. Max Mata (c), 10. Willem Ebbinge, 14. Kingsley Sinclair (Oliver Whyte 78’), 17. Matthew Palmer, 18. Charles Spragg
Substitutes not used: Zac Jones (GK), Elijah Just, Matthew Conroy, Matthew Jones
Coach: Danny Hay
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