New Zealand have won the final of the OFC U-17 Championship after playing a third of the game with 10 players.
The young Kiwis beat New Caledonia 1-0, thanks to a Niko Bruce goal midway through the first half, to clinch their eight Oceania age group title in a row.
Their job was made more difficult by the sending-off of New Zealand defender Luka Coveny in the 57th minute, but the side defended doggedly to hold on for victory.
New Caledonia started brightly, making good use of Jean-Yves Saiko’s pace down the right flank.
When crosses did get into the box, New Zealand goalkeeper Matthew Foord was confident beneath them.
Ryan Lee came off the subs’ bench after only 16 minutes, replacing Jackson Cole, and he quickly started to exploit opportunities to get down the right wing and behind the New Caledonia defence.
Lee did exactly that in the 24th minute, crossing towards the goal. It took a deflection and the New Caledonia ‘keeper, Claude Tiaouniane, was caught off-guard and he fumbled the ball onto the post.
It rebounded to Niko Bruce who controlled it and fired it into the net for his side’s opening goal.
Main photo: New Zealand collect their trophy. Photo: Kirk Corrie / Phototek.
New Caledonia stepped up their game but were predictable and continued to rely on Saiko’s breaks.
A minute before the break, New Caledonia had their best chance of the half, when skipper Joseph Hnaissillin turned his marker and let fly with a venomous shot from 25 metres.
Foord flung himself to his left and palmed it away.
The half-time stats showed the balance of the game was even, with New Caledonia having eight shots on target compared to New Zealand’s five.
New Zealand were reduced to 10 players in the 57th minute when Luka Coveny tugged a New Caledonian shirt and referee Veer Singh showed him his second yellow card, and sent him off.
Coach Martin Bullock used his bench to re-arrange his onfield line-up, making it difficult for New Caledonia to play their way through.
As the final whistle neared, New Caledonia pushed forward and peppered the New Zealand penalty area with crosses.
In added time, Foord pulled off a crucial save and the post came to New Zealand’s rescue as a late shot rebounded to safety.
The match stats showed how much New Zealand were under the pump in the second half, with New Caledonia having 14 shots on target for the full game, compared to New Zealand’s seven.
Foord was named Player of the Match.
Meanwhile, in the early game, Tahiti beat Fiji 3-0 in the play-off for third place with three goals in the second half.
It was the sixth time Fiji have finished fourth at the tournament.
Claude Tiaouniane, Grégory Diko, Wadria Hanye, Joseph Hnaissilin (captain) (Sipane Qaeze 76′), Anthony Levy, Nohhann Alebate, Jythrim Upa (Amin Belghecham 85′), Bayron Gohoupe (Simon Ue 85′), Jean-Philippe Angexetine (David Cahma 41′), Timotei Zeter, Jean-Yves Saiko.
Subs: Maximilian Dabone (GK), Ronald Nganyane, Maël Raban-Grangier, Iwatro Hmuine, Yazid-Enzo Wajoka, Doryan Etienne, Kyllian Wiako.
Head coach: Léonardo Lopez.
Assistant coach: Johann Sidaner.
Goalkeeper coach: Antoine Marsaud.
Physio: Thibaut Nerriere.
Doctor: Jean-Marie Sabot.
Head of delegation: Gilles Nahiet.
Video analyst: Lucas Bitaud
Saiko 27′, Cahma 44′
Matthew Foord, Luka Coveny, Dylan Gardiner (captain), Konstantino Gorgiovski (Eric Imachia Sugahara 66′), Luke Supyk, Jackson Cole (Ryan Lee 17′), Harry Huxford (Nicolas Murphy 66′), Jesper Edwards, Harrison Tisch, Adam Watson (Anton Isaako 66′), Niko Bruce (Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues 51′).
Subs: Joshua Brown (GK), Eamonn McCarron (GK), Marley Leuluai, Luke Flowerdew, James Ray, Anaru Cassidy, Matt D’Holman.
Head coach: Martin Bullock.
Assistant coaches: Aaron Clapham, Steve Coleman.
Goalkeeper coach: Denny Knight.
Physio: Hamish Donnison.
Sports scientist: Nichollas Boyce.
Team manager: Zachary Haydon.
Coveny 44′, 57′, Supyk 90+4′
Referee: Veer Singh (Fiji), assistant referees: Folio Moeaki (Tonga), Jeffery Solodia (Solomon Islands), fourth official: Kavietsh Behari (Fiji).
Games played on Saturday January 28, 2023
New Caledonia 0
New Zealand 1 (Niko Bruce 24′)
Play-off for third
Tahiti 3 (Vaitea Seguy 51, Titouan Guillemant 56’, Ariiheivarau Tama 68′)
You can watch 4′ 30″ of edited highlights here:
You can watch the stream of the match here: