The Futsal Whites have made a triumphant return to international competition, winning the OFC Futsal Cup in Fiji.
In an entertaining and sometimes-feisty final, New Zealand beat Solomon Islands 6-2.
Rahan Ali led the scoring with a hat-trick, giving him eight goals for the tournament.
For the Futsal Whites, it was a successful return to competition after a three-year hiatus forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Zealand got off to the perfect start with Jordi Ditford showing a flash of individual skill to score the opening goal in the second minute.
Solomon Islands levelled in the fifth minute when Marlon Sia scored after a New Zealand foul.
Rahan Ali got the first of his goals in the seventh minute, finishing an inch-perfect pass from captain Logan Wisnewski.
Five minutes later, Ethan Martin made a well-timed run into space to finish cleanly for his sixth goal of the tournament.
That enabled the Futsal Whites to go into the half-time break ahead by a 3-1 margin.
In the second half, tempers flared in a dust-up when Solomon Islands goalscorer Sia appeared to kick out at Krit Twigg. After prolonged consideration, the referees conferred an Sia was given a red card.
Within two minutes, New Zealand took advantage and Ali scored his second of the evening.
A minute later, Solomon Islands came back with a goal walloped into the net by Benjamin Mana, reducing the deficit to 4-2.
Almost immediately, the Futsal Whites came back and Ali completed his hat-trick, with his ninth goal of the tournament.
Late in the game, the Solomon Islands pushed forward and paid the price with a minute to go when Stephen Ashby stole the ball and shot from just inside the opposition half, and into an empty net.
As the goal was awarded, Solomon Islands captain Jeffery Bule was given two yellow cards and his marching orders.
For the final minute, New Zealand ran down the clock and then the whistle went, allowing the Futsal Whites to celebrate a triumphant return to the international scene.
The tournament’s Golden Glove went to Auckland City goalkeeper Mike Antamanov from the Futsal Whites.
The Golden Boot went to New Zealand’s Rahan Ali.
The Golden Ball for best player of the tournament also went to Ali.
Shots on target: New Zealand 18, Solomon Islands 21
Fouls: New Zealand 2, Solomon Islands 6
Yellow cards: New Zealand 1, Solomon Islands 1
Red cards: New Zealand 0, Solomon Islands 2
Game played on Sunday September 18, 2022
New Zealand 6 (Jordi Ditford 2′, Rahan Ali 7′, 30′, 32′, Ethan Martin 12′, Stephen Ashby 38′)
Solomon Islands 2 (Marlon Sia 5′, Benjamin Mana 31′)
Futsal Whites squad
Rahan Ali (Southern United)*
Yousif Al-Kalisy (Auckland City FC)*
Mike Antamanov (Auckland City FC)*
Stephen Ashby (Auckland City FC)
Jordi Ditfort (Waikato Rapids)
Hamish Grey (ASD Isola 5)*
Oban Hawkins (Northern Comets)
Ethan Martin (Waikato Rapids)*
Sean McIntee (Auckland City FC)*
Adam Paulsen (Auckland City FC)*
Casey Sharplin (Waikato Rapids)*
Patrick Steele (Waikato Rapids)*
Denny Twigg (Northern Comets)*
Logan Wisnewski (Waikato Rapids)
* Debut senior squad selection
The match was live streamed by OFC and you can watch their stream here (please scroll down to the fourth match):
New Zealand’s record at the tournament
Game played on Saturday September 17, 2022
New Zealand 6 (Sean McIntee 4′, Logan Wisnewski 21′, Jordi Ditford 23′, Ethan Martin 32′, Hamish Grey 38′, own goal 39′)
New Caledonia 1 (Emmanual Hmaen 27′)
Game played on Tuesday September 13, 2022
New Zealand 5 (Rahan Ali 2′, 26′, Sean McIntee 18′, Jordi Ditford 24′, Hamish Grey 28′)
Fiji FA Presidents Five 1 (Ravneel Pal 12′)
Game played on Wednesday September 14, 2022
New Zealand 1 (Rahan Ali 3′)
Vanuatu 1 (Rhydley Napau 26′)
Game played on Friday September 16, 2022
New Zealand 15 (Casery Sharplin 2′, Ethan Martin 4′, 20′, 26′, 37′, Hamish Grey 6′, Rahan Ali 12′, 32′, Sean McIntee 13′, Oban Hawkins 19′, 39′, Stephen Ashby 20′, Adam Paulsen 26′, 33′, Logan Wisnewski 31′)
Tonga 1 (Lachman Atoa 7′)
READ MORE: Our coverage of the OFC Futsal Cup >>>>