New Zealand are through to the OFC Men’s Olympic qualifier final after an impressive 8-0 win over Vanuatu in their semi-final at Go Media Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Coach Darren Bazeley’s side were dominant from the outset and cruised through to Saturday night’s final at North Harbour Stadium where they will play Fiji to decide which nation represents Oceania at the 2024 Paris Olympics.
New Zealand should have taken the lead in the second minute when captain Finn Surman nodded the ball across the goal, but Oskar Van Hattum fired wide from point-blank range.
A minute later, the Kiwis were in front via a through ball from Aaryan Raj which pierced the defence and Jesse Randall ran on and slotted the ball to the right of Vanuatu goalkeeper Massing Kalotong for the opener.
The onslaught continued with Van Hattum making up for his early miss, heading home in the 10th minute before Randall had his second two minutes later, running down the left-hand flank and slotting past the keeper at the near post.
New Zealand made it four on 17 minutes when George Ott was brought down by Kalotong in the box. Ott dusted himself down before firing home from the penalty spot.
The home side was rampant with Vanuatu struggling to retain possession and guilty of giving their opponents too much space on the ball.
New Zealand continued to carve out chances and but for the heroics of Kalotong in the Vanuatu goal would have had a few more goals in the first spell. Vanuatu had a chance to pull a goal back with their first attempt but from a corner Joel Botleng fired over the top of the crossbar.
Van Hattum headed home getting in front of the keeper six minutes from half-time to make it five-nil before Ryan Verney fired home for a sixth just before the break.
New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley made changes at the break, and the onslaught continued with Aaryan Raj scoring the seventh in the 53rd minute with a deft header back across the face of the goal and into the far corner of the net.
Main photo: New Zealand’s Aaryan Raj celebrates his goal. Photo credit: OFC / Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Substitute Keegan Kelly should have made it eight, 10 minutes later when he fired onto the crossbar from just outside the six-yard box. Raj then scored his second, unmarked at the far post following a corner.
Vanuatu avoided any further carnage and will at least take some satisfaction. They conceded only twice in the second spell after their first-half struggles.
Acknowledgement: Match report provided by OFC Media.
Game played on Wednesday September 6, 2023
New Zealand 8 (Jesse Randall 3’, 12’, Oskar van Hattum 10’, 39’, George Ott 17’ pen, Ryan Verney 43’, Aaryan Raj 57’, 72’)
Game to be play on Saturday September 9, 2023
New Zealand v Fiji
North Harbour Stadium, Albany, 7pm