New Zealand off to perfect start in Suva

Ben Waine, of the Wellington Phoenix, scored a hat-trick for the NZ U-23 Men in their opener against Samoa in Fiji. Photo: Phototek

A hat-trick from Ben Waine has helped the New Zealand U-23 men get off to the perfect start at the OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Fiji.

Des Buckingham’s team put away a determined Samoan outfit 6-1 in their opening game in hot and fine conditions this afternoon at the ANZ National Stadium in Suva.

New Zealand, on the back of two impressive 1-1 draws with Australia, were well-organised and their quality in the attacking third of Clayton Lewis, Myer Bevan, Ben Waine and Logan Rogerson caused the Samoan defence plenty of problems.

Ben, the 18-year-old who signed his first professional contract with the Wellington Phoenix following his performances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, once again showed his potential.

New Zealand U-23 coach Des Buckingham was pleased with the team’s first performance.

“It’s a good start,” says Des. “People tend to get all excited and nervous around the first game so it is good to get here and play, score six goals. This performance sets us up nicely for the second game against American Samoa so that will help ease some nerves and get us going.

“Ben played well but rather than picking out individuals, all of the forwards got themselves into the final third and were able to get on the end of the final move, which is what they are there to do.”

New Zealand opened the scoring in the 10th minute when Ben showed good composure in front of goal. The Wellington Phoenix forward turned provider for the second when he produced a fine ball across goal for captain Logan Rogerson to head home at the back post.

New Zealand kept coming and found their third goal coming into half-time through Myer Bevan when the Auckland City striker finished well from close range.

Samoa, who showed good fight throughout the contest, responded before the break with a well-deserved goal. Ronnie Bourne hustled the New Zealand keeper Cameron Brown on the break and laid the ball off for Michael Tumua Leo to score. New Zealand held a 3-1 lead at the break.

The three-time OFC Olympic champions continued to control the game in the second spell and found their fourth goal on a long sweeping team move which ended in a tap in for Ben.

With 10 minutes to play, second-half substitute Ollie Whyte had a chance in the 18-yard box which he slotted home to beat Fatu in goal and continue the momentum.

Des made three changes in the second half. Ollie, Jake Porter and goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, the 17-year-old who made his debut, all came on to finish off the game.

Samoa handled the ball in the 18-yard box to gift New Zealand a penalty in the 83rd minute. Ben, who missed a chance to complete his hat-trick in the 65th minute, completed a special afternoon with the spot-kick.

In the earlier game, the Solomon Islands beat American Samoa 6-0 in Group A. New Zealand meet American Samoa on Tuesday.

OFC Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Samoa 1 (Michael Tumua Leo 41’)
New Zealand 6 (Ben Waine 10’, 53’, 83’ (pen), Logan Rogerson 12’, Myer Bevan 39’, Ollie Whyte 80’)
HT: 1-3

New Zealand: 1. Cameron Brown (GK), (20. Alex Paulsen (GK) 79’), 6. Dane Schnell, 7. Myer Bevan (11. Ollie Whyte 63’), 9. Logan Rogerson (c) (8. Jake Porter 69’), 10. Clayton Lewis, 13. Liberato Cacace, 14. Billy Jones, 15. Sean Liddicoat, 16. Gianni Stensness, 17. Callan Elliot, 18. Ben Waine

Substitutes not used: 2. Conor Tracey (GK), 2. Jordan Spain, 3. Dylan de Jong, 4. Hunter Ashworth, 5. Robert Tipelu, 19. Noah Billingsley
Coach: Des Buckingham

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