Friday, January 14, 2011

U-17 Updates: Day Seven Review

[ News, 14 January 2010] - The top two places in Group A remain up for grabs after the seventh day of OFC U-17 Championship action at North Harbour Stadium.

The afternoon began with a determined defensive display from American Samoa restricting New Zealand to a 4-0 win and ended with an impressive showing from Vanuatu, who snuffed out Fiji’s hopes of progressing past the pool stages with a 3-0 victory.

The results mean the Young All Whites top the group on nine points but they have still not done enough to guarantee themselves of top spot. Both Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea have a mathematical chance of snatching it away from them but each would need big wins in their final group games to do so as New Zealand have a much superior goal difference.

A point in their next game against Papua New Guinea will be enough to see New Zealand through to the final but they would have hoped to make life a bit easier for themselves by finding the net more regularly today.

That task was made difficult by a resilient American Samoa side, who got plenty of players behind the ball and frustrated New Zealand for lengthy periods.

It took until the 23rd minute for the Young All Whites to get on the scoresheet, Rory Turner charging onto a Luke Adams long ball and squaring for winger James Wypych - who caught the eye throughout the game with some deft touches - to finish off.

It remained that way until half-time and there were only 25 minutes to go when New Zealand finally had another, Turner tucking away a cross from substitute Cameron Howieson. Fellow subs Tim Payne and Ken Yamamoto added further goals in the 77th and 78th minutes to spare New Zealand’s blushes and inch their side closer to a place in the final.

Coach Steve Cain was pleased to pick up another three points but feels his team can be indecisive at times.

“Our play is reasonably cohesive but it’s just a bit too slow,” he says. “The ball gets into the right areas of the pitch at the wrong time. We’ve got to work on getting it in there that little bit quicker. When we do that we look dangerous.”

Skipper Adams is happy with how the tournament is unfolding but knows New Zealand can’t continue being wasteful in front of goal.

“We had a lot of chances that we should have done much better with,” he says. “But we’ll take the win and it’s another clean sheet so we’re happy with that.”

Vanuatu were also able to keep a clean sheet as they outplayed a surprisingly subdued Fijian side in the day’s later game. Both teams had everything to play for and the first half was a tense affair as each fought to exert their dominance.

It was Vanuatu who finally grabbed the initiative in the 53rd minute when the Kaltak brothers combined to excellent effect. Tony Kaltak broke down the right and slid the ball inside for sibling Jean to smash home in emphatic style.

Jean Kaltak notched his second when he made the most of an Abraham Roquara pass in the 76th minute and the game was put out on Fiji’s reach with five minutes remaining. Captain Roquara again put through a defence-splitting ball and substitute George Mahit was the fortunate recipient this time, going round goalkeeper Senirusi Bokini and tapping home.

It was a disappointing end to the tournament for Fiji, who began in such promising fashion with a 9-0 win over American Samoa. Coach Hussain Sahib and his charges will be left rueing the 2-1 upset they suffered against Papua New Guinea in their second outing.

“I think we were probably a bit complacent after we won that first game so well and that cost us in the second match,” Sahib says. “That’s when I think things started to go against us. But we used a lot of energy to pick up our performance against New Zealand and I don’t think we recovered in time for this game today.”

Vanuatu opposite Wilson August was delighted to see his team bounce back so impressively from their 5-1 defeat against the Young All Whites.

“We played much better than we did against New Zealand and we are very happy with the result,” he says. “But we still have a lot of things to work on and need to improve our communication.”

A pair of intriguing clashes make up tomorrow’s Group B action with Cook Islands and Tonga set to fight it out for their first points at 1pm, followed by the French Polynesian derby between Tahiti and New Caledonia from 4pm. Both matches take place on North Harbour Stadium’s outer oval.

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