New Zealand off to winning start at OFC U-19 Men’s Championship in Samoa

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New Zealand have started their title defence with a comfortable 3-0 victory against New Caledonia in their opening group match at the OFC Men’s U-19 Championship.

Defending champions New Zealand got stuck in right from the whistle, with Auckland City attacker Stipe Ukich registering two early shots on target. But New Caledonia’s goalkeeper was more than up to the task.

New Caledonia’s resilience was eventually broken in the 18th minute after defender Jythrim Upa was punished for raising his hands in the box.

Ukich made no mistake from the penalty spot with his shot leaving Gabin Rachel rooted to the floor.

Main photo: Stipe Ukich (16) scored the first goal for New Zealand. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

Minutes later, Ukich had another in the back of the net, but it was waved away after he was deemed to have fouled a New Caledonia defender in the box.

New Caledonia defender Upa was fortunate not to be sent off after a dangerous tackle on Tze Xuan Loke; instead, he was cautioned with a yellow. As for Loke, his day was over after he succumbed to an ankle injury.

The left side of New Caledonia’s defence was under siege from Ukich, who drove into the box, skipping past the first defender, before teeing up Ryan Watson for an easy tap-in.

New Zealand’s Daniel Makowem is tackled. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

New Zealand quickly tripled their lead after the break.

Daniel Makowem got the better of his defender, providing a pinpoint cross for Keegan Kelly who arrived at the back post to guide it past Rachel.

After a sustained period of dominance by the defending champions, New Caledonia went close to pinching one back against the run of play.

Joseph Hnaissilin intercepted a ball in the midfield before driving towards the goal, his shot just missing the target.

Both teams now look to Tuesday and their second match of the group stage, when New Zealand face hosts Samoa and New Caledonia take on Papua New Guinea.

WATCH: Highlights from New Zealand’s 3-0 win against New Caledonia >>>>

READ MORE: Coach Chris Greenacre ‘delighted’ with New Zealand’s start at tournament >>>>

Samoa beat Papua New Guinea 3-1

Samoa prevailed 3-1 in a hard-fought match against Papua New Guinea in the second match in Group B.

Papua New Guinea should have been ahead in the first five minutes of the match. Striker Johnson Belle was gifted an easy goalscoring opportunity but metres out from an empty goal, he sent his shot sailing over the crossbar.

German-based striker Pharrell Bennett was ever-present in Samoa’s attack, causing Papua New Guinea issues in defence, but for the most part, they handled him well.

Battling the hot and humid conditions, both sides struggled to gain the ascendency in the first period with neither team really testing each other’s goal.

Approaching half time the breakthrough came, and it was Samoa’s captain Trainor who provided it. He showed great composure to control a cross, before calmly slotting it past Daniel Sakora.

Trainor almost had his second in two minutes, showing great creativity as he used his heel to direct the ball goalwards, but Sakora managed to beat the ball to the net to stop it.

Samoa’s Lonokaehu Steve Seva’atumatagi Tuitele and Papau New Guinea’s Johnson Kaio compete for possession. Photo credit: OFC Media / DJ Mills / Phototek.

At the other end, Papua New Guinea’s Jason Goble-Lote had a chance of his own. He caught the hosts on the counterattack, dribbling into the box before unleashing a strike only to be denied by the strong hands of Joel Bartley.

Samoa made the perfect start to the second half with Trainor doubling the hosts’ advantage. He picked the ball up just beyond the penalty box, dribbled past two PNG players before slotting it into the bottom corner.

However, Papua New Guinea hit right back, when sloppy defending from the hosts saw Nalau Moses get in behind the defence. His shot took a huge deflection off a defender and found the back of the goal.

It was end-to-end stuff for the remainder of the second period, both teams relentless on attack as they knew the importance of getting off to a good start at the OFC U-19 Men’s Championship.

Juan Gobbi put the game beyond doubt in the final stages of the match, powering his shot past Sakora into the back of the net. He could have had a second in added time, but his chip shot just drifted over the crossbar.

The victory for Samoa sets up an intriguing clash against New Zealand on Tuesday, while for Papua New Guinea they’ll look to rebound against New Caledonia.


We are grateful for the help of OFC Media in providing information for this story.


Games played on Saturday July 6, 2024

Group B

New Zealand 3 (Stipe Ukich 18′ pen, Ryan Watson 45+5′, Keegan Kelly 48′)
New Caledonia 0

Samoa 3 (Pharrell Trainor 38′, 47′, Juan Gobbi 82′)
Papua New Guinea 1 (Nalau Moses 50′)

New Zealand’s starting line-up. Photo credit: OFC Media / DJ Mills / Phototek.

New Zealand squad

James Bulkeley, Fleetwood United, Dubai
Lachlan Candy, Waterside Karori, New Zealand
Adama Coulibaly, Auckland FC, New Zealand
Luka Coveny, Western United, Australia
Fergus Gillion, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Bruce Izumi, Western Suburbs, New Zealand
Seth Karunaratne, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Keegan Kelly, Flatirons Rush, United States
Alby Kelly-Heald, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Tze-Xuan Loke, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Daniel Makowem, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Eamonn McCarron, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand

Finn McKenlay, Auckland FC, New Zealand
Oliver Middleton, Auckland FC, New Zealand
Lewis Partridge, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Codey Phoenix, Auckland United, New Zealand
Rico Pradhan, Christchurch United, New Zealand
Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Luke Supyk, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Stipe Ukich, Auckland City, New Zealand
Nathan Walker, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand
Joe Wallis, Auckland City, New Zealand
Ryan Watson, Wellington Phoenix, New Zealand

RESULTS: First day winners at OFC U-19 Men’s Championship in Samoa >>>>


Game to be played on Tuesday July 9, 2024

New Zealand v Samoa
FFS Football Stadium, Apia, Samoa, 2pm (NZT)

Game to be played on Friday July 12, 2024

New Zealand v Papua New Guinea
FFS Football Stadium, Apia, Samoa, 11am (NZT)

This story was first published on July 6, 2024.

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