All Whites 6 Solomon Islands 1
A classy win over the Solomon Islands at North Harbour Stadium last night has catapulted the All Whites into a dominate position just two matches into the Oceania World Cup qualifiers.
Already three points clear of their nearest challengers, the All Whites now have the chance to all but wrap up qualification for the next phase when they play Nations Cup winners Tahiti away and then home on October 12 and 16.
Kosta Barbarouses, who never stopped running and relished his chance in replacing Jeremy Brockie in one of two changes made by coach Ricki Herbert, was lively from the outset combining well with Leo Bertos on the right.
Showing some classy touches, the All Whites enjoyed a feast of ball constantly turning midfield possession into a wealth of attacking opportunities.
From their second corner, Bertos floated the ball in. It missed everyone en route to Shane Smeltz who needed no second invitation to steer home for a well-deserved 12th minute lead.
Twelve minutes later that was doubled.
Tony Lochhead sent the ball long and Barbarouses, popping up on the left and watching in amazement as goalkeeper Samson Koti charged out of his area, calmly cut in, wrong-footed two half-hearted attempted tackles and calmly slotted his second goal in his 13th international.
The dominance by the All Whites, with Ivan Vicelich and Michael McGlinchey untroubled in controlling the midfield with Bertos and Lochhead on the flanks, was reflected in their four-to-one advantage in balls played into the penalty area.
Any even half-threat by the visitors rarely tested All Whites goalkeeper Mark Paston who had an armchair ride behind the accomplished defensive trio of Winston Reid, Ryan Nelsen and Tommy Smith.
Reid relished the opportunities to press forward and from one foray late in the first half he found Smeltz who in turn picked out Barbarouses who disappointed with his header which was easily grabbed by goalkeeper Paul Huia who late in the first half replaced the injured Koti.
The much-anticipated Solomon Islands strikeforce led by Benjamin Totori and Henry Fa'arodo was largely ineffectual as even half raids were snuffed out.
Chris Killen, in for Chris Wood, joined Smeltz and Barbarouses in an attacking trio who constantly asked questions of the Nelson Sale-led Solomon Islands defence.
The second half quickly fired up.
From an attacking corner in the 50th minute, New Zealand were caught out by a lightning counter-attack which ended with the ball being deflected by Fa'arodo away from Paston for 2-1. Within 90secs the gap was back to two when Bertos picked out Killen who nodded home his 13th international goal.
From there it became a goal-fest as New Zealand rammed home their advantage.
All Whites 6
Solomon Islands 1