Wednesday, 12 September 2012 8:38 AM
New Zealand Beats Solomons in Qualifiers
The Pacific's top-ranked side have indicated they are still likely to be the team to beat in Stage 3 of Oceania qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with their second successive win of the tournament this evening, a 6-1 success over Solomon Islands in the first match of the second round.
The All Whites' clash with the Bonitos at a damp and cold North Harbour Stadium was a repeat of the play-off for third at June's OFC Nations Cup but unlike that thrilling encounter - won 4-3 by New Zealand - tonight's game was not an evenly-fought affair as the hosts underlined why they are favourites to progress from Stage 3 and earn a meeting with the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation.
Coach Ricki Herbert was delighted to celebrate his 50th match at the helm of New Zealand with the largest win of his reign but directed much of the credit towards his charges.
"I must say a massive thank you to the staff and players over the years," he said.
"I'm very proud to have reached 50 games and it was a nice way to mark it tonight. But, more importantly, I think the three points were crucial. I thought we were very professional and went about our work very well right from the whistle. We dominated the game for long periods so I was very pleased."
The Solomon Islands players - used to the baking sun and soaring temperatures of their homeland - struggled to adapt to the chilly conditions and found themselves two goals down within the first 25 minutes, the strikes arriving courtesy of Shane Smeltz and Kosta Barbarouses. Both were accomplished finishes, Smeltz side-footing home a deep Leo Bertos corner to give his side the lead in the 12th minute and Barbarouses showing good composure to round onrushing goalkeeper Samson Koti and find a path to slide the ball home between several defenders.
The visitors had failed to create much going forward in the face of New Zealand's first-half dominance but got themselves back into the game after the break, inspirational captain Henry Fa'arodo turning a low Leslie Nate cross into the net on 51 minutes. It was to prove a false dawn though as substitute gloveman Paul Huia - who had replaced the injured Koti just before half-time - somehow failed to keep out a Chris Killen header just two minutes later.
The Bonitos had come back from a similar position before against New Zealand - a 3-0 deficit was hauled back to 3-3 in that bronze medal Nations Cup match - but there were to be no such heroics this time as a further three All Whites got their names on the scoresheet. A first international goal for Tony Lochhead and a tap-in from substitute Marco Rojas - his first touch after entering the fray - sandwiched Chris Wood's second effort of Stage 3 to round off a comfortable win and sound out a warning to the All Whites' Pacific rivals.
"I want to give credit to New Zealand because I think they proved tonight that they are still the team we will all need to beat," Solomon Islands coach Jacob Moli said.
"I thought that after we made it 2-1 the boys could have lifted themselves and started getting more into the game but it turned out to be a different situation altogether. They started to lose their concentration and the All Whites just tore our defence apart.
Moli admitted the unfamiliar weather had played a part in his side's downfall and felt the change of goalkeeper did not help matters either.
"It's hard for the reserve goalkeeper to come straight in like that because he's not warmed up properly and suddenly he's called into the action," he said.
"The positive thing is that we've proved we can still score against the All Whites so hopefully when we have the return match in Honiara things will go much better for us."
The other match in the second round of Stage 3 is a francophone derby between Tahiti and New Caledonia in the Tahitian capital of Papeete on Tuesday night local time.