Soccer: All Whites hammer Solomon Islands

By Michael Brown

Leo Bertos challenges for the ball. Photo / Getty Images
Leo Bertos challenges for the ball. Photo / Getty Images

All Whites 6 Solomon Islands 1
The heavy shower of rain as the sides emerged for kickoff virtually washed away the Solomon Island's chances of success at North Harbour Stadium tonight and in the end they capitulated to a rampant All Whites.

It was cold and sometimes wet and the Solomon Islanders liked it about as much as Ricki Herbert's side enjoyed the heat and humidity in Honiara at June's Oceania Nations Cup. Seven of the visitors wore gloves - and that didn't count goalkeeper Samson Koti - and by the end they looked like they wanted to hide under the blankets the substitutes clutched on the sidelines.

It did little to attract a big crowd (7931 turned up) but the main objective is at least winning the Oceania qualifiers and the All Whites wouldn't have too displeased with the conditions.

"It was like a beautiful day in England,'' skipper Ryan Nelsen joked.

It wasn't, but it was more than 20 degrees cooler than what the Bonitos left behind in Honiara last weekend.

The All Whites probably didn't need any more help - with Nelsen and Winston Reid back they looked considerably more assured - but it allowed them to take control of the third phase of World Cup qualifiers.

They are now the only side with two wins from two, and two results in the home-and-away matches against Tahiti next month will have them on the brink of progression to an intercontinental playoff with the fourth-best side from North and Central America for a place in Brazil in 2014.

Nelsen won't allow the players to lose sight of that goal. He said before this match it didn't matter if they won ugly, as long as they won, but they were often much better than that tonight.

They played an up-tempo game with some nice one-touch football at times and found considerable joy attacking down the flanks.

There were periods when it was also a little sloppy as the greasy surface made control difficult and they probably should have scored at least 10 on the night but 6-1 is comprehensive at any level.

"I thought we were very good tonight,'' Herbert said. "We were very professional. Right from the whistle we went about our work very well and dominated the game.''

They took control as early as the 12th minute when Shane Smeltz volleyed in a swinging Leo Bertos corner and when Kosta Barbarouses took advantage of a goalkeeping howler in the 25th minute - he easily rounded Samson Koti who burst out of his box - it left the Solomon Islands too much to do.

Skipper Henry Fa'arodo gave his side some hope when he brilliantly slotted a first-time shot past Mark Paston in the 51st minute but it was only short-lived because Chris Killen restored the two-goal lead less than two minutes later.

From then, it was one-way traffic.

Tony Lochhead scored his first goal in his 40th international, Chris Wood chested in 10 minutes from time and Marco Rojas tapped in with his first touch in the 83rd minute.

"They proved to us again they are still the best team [in Oceania],'' Solomons coach Jacob Moli said. "The conditions played a major part - it was tough for us - but we can't blame the weather for the result.''

The injection of Kosta Barbarouses added pace and trickery up front for the All Whites and the back three of Nelsen, Reid and Tommy Smith, apart from one rare lapse for Fa'arodo's goal, were imperious.

They are a completely different side with the trio present and the All Whites will feel confident of topping the Oceania group if all three play the last four games.

It will also help if the cold weather accompanies them.

New Zealand 6 (Shane Smeltz 12, Kosta Barbarouses 25, Chris Killen 53, Tony Lochhead 69, Chris Wood 80, Marco Rojas 83) Solomon Islands 1 (Henry Fa'arodo 51). HT: 2-0.


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