New Zealand Crash To Vanuatu

New Zealand’s World Cup qualification hopes teeter on the brink of extinction tonight following their shock 4-2 loss at the hands of Vanuatu, while the Solomon Islands recorded a comfortable 4-0 win over Tahiti in the earlier match.

New Zealand-s World Cup qualification hopes teeter on the brink of extinction tonight following their shock 4-2 loss at the hands of Vanuatu, a nation ranked 66 places below them.

In what was an epic encounter from start to finish, the tiny Melanesian island of Vanuatu, with a population of just 200,000 people, achieved their greatest ever success in beating one of Oceania-s powerhouses for the first time.

The Vanuatuans went to the break 1-0 up thanks to a goal from Seimata Chillia and confirmed their victory with goals to Lexa Bibi, Jean Maleb and Alphonse Qorig in the second half.

New Zealand responded with a brace to former South Melbourne striker Vaughan Coveny, but ultimately did not have the heart to match the spirit of Vanuatu, who have forever etched their names in World Cup history with their remarkable performance.

Vanuatu-s shock opener arrived on 37 minutes when Chillia was on hand to clean up the scraps from a Vanuatuan throw that had the New Zealand defence in a confused chaos.

In what was essentially the Melanesians first attacking movement of any quality, commanding 17-year-old striker Maleb flicked on a Vanuatu throw to teammate Qorig, who should have scored but for a desperate save from Mark Paston in the Kiwi goal.

Luckily for the Carlos Buzzetti-s men, Chilia, who was one of the Vanuatuans best all evening, was on hand to slam home Vanuatu-s first goal of their 2004 Nations Cup campaign.

Going into the break at 1-0, there was an air of anticipation at Hindmarsh, with the small crowd on hand eager to see how Mick Waitt-s All Whites would react to the damning score line before them.

Try as they might, a New Zealand equaliser seemed hopeless and after several near misses, Coveny finally restored parity with a diligent strike after Vanuatu ‘keeper David Chilia (pictured above at the final whistle) had parried the Kiwi marksman-s first effort.

Waitt, and New Zealand-s joy was to be short lived however.

Within three minutes, Vanuatu had restored their lead courtesy of a swift counter attack that culminated in defender Bibi-s cool placement to the left of Paston-s imposing figure.

From here on in, the crowd at Hindmarsh witnessed a classic display of enthralling soccer that ultimately crowned Vanuatu kings of Oceania for the night.

Teen sensation Maleb showed great poise to slot home his fourth goal of Vanuatu-s World Cup campaign before Coveny reduced the margin once more with his second goal of the evening.

The final word went to Buzzetti-s men though and Qorig-s strike in the dying minutes sent the Vanuatuan bench into delirium and sealed the fate of the All Whites, who were now staring down the barrel of an embarrassing World Cup exit.

“I-m absolutely gutted to be totally honest,” said a disconsolate Waitt at the post match press conference.

“The quality in the final third for us was poor, I thought we showed a lack of invention.

“I was furious that when we got back to one all, we then carried on pushing and left ourselves open to a counter punch.

“Generally when Vanuatu counter attack, they do it very effectively and they took their chances.”

In stark contrast to his counterpart, Vanuatuan coach Buzzetti was the epitome of optimism after the game.

“For us, it was very difficult,” said Buzzetti, alluding to the glut of injuries his team was faced with before the match.

“My players kept their shape all the time and they did their job.

“I-m very proud of my boys.”

Whilst it-s game on for Vanuatu in OFC Nations Cup 2004, the New Zealanders need to regroup should they hope to progress to the next stage of World Cup qualifiers.

Goal difference is sure to play an integral part in the final makeup of the tournament and the Kiwis will be sure to throw all they have at Tahiti when they meet at the Marden Sports Complex on Friday.

New Zealand: 1. Mark Paston (gk), 2. Duncan Oughton, 5. Che Bunce, 6. Tony Lochhead, 7. Ivan Vicelich, 8. Aaran Lines (11. Shane Smeltz 56-), 11. Leo Bertos (17. Raf De Gregorio 72-), 13. Brent Fisher, 14. Ryan Nelsen, 15. Michael Wilson (16. Vaughan Coveny 52-), 21. Rupesh Puna

Bookings: Vicelich 65-, De Gregorio 92-+

Goals: Coveny 61-, 75-

Vanuatu: 1. David Chilia, 2. Geoffrey Gete (19. Roger Joe 81-), 4. Lexa Bibi, 6. Graham Demas, 7. Fedy Vava, 9. Seimata Chilia, 11. Moise Poida (3. Manley Tabe 84-), 12. Lorry Thompsen, 16. Alphonse Qorig, 17. Jean Maleb, 21. Tom Manses

Bookings: Poida 2-, Gete 67-, D Chilia 77-

Goals: S Chillia 37-, Bibi 64-, Maleb 72-, Qorig 88-

Meanwhile in the earlier game at Hindmarsh Stadium, the Solomon Islands recorded an impressive 4-0 over island rivals Tahiti.

Goals came from the NSL dirtied boots of Henry Fa-Arodo, Commins Menapi and Batram Suri, with Menapi netting a goal in each half.

It was the Solomons slick and fast game that unsettled the Tahitians, who seldom looked capable of breaking through the stern Solomons defence to register their first goal of the 2004 OFC Nations Cup.

Former Melbourne Knights striker Fa-Arodo got the ball rolling for the Melanesians in just the ninth minute, following a pinpoint delivery from Stanley Waita.

Fa-Arodo-s finish was clinical and laid the foundations for a solid Solomons performance that keeps their hopes of qualification for the next stage very much alive.

Menapi doubled the Solomons lead just six minutes later after squeezing his low shot between Tahitian goalkeeper Stanley Tien Wah and the near post.

The former Sydney United players strike effectively negated Tahiti-s resistance and had the small crowd on hand drawing comparisons to Ned Zelic-s wonder goal against the Netherlands in 1993.

Although convincingly outplayed for most of the half, the Tahitians were not without their chances and were it not for some lamentable finishing, could have gone to the break with something to show for their efforts.

Hiro Labaste was presented with a golden opportunity to level the scores on eleven minutes after receiving a clever through ball from Tahiti skipper Samuel Garcia.

Unfortunately for Gerard Kautai-s men, Labaste-s effort was annulled by Solomons ‘keeper Felix Ray, who stretched well to tip the experienced strikers shot against the post and out for a corner.

Suri, who has experience with the Football Kingz, put the game beyond doubt in the dying stages of the half when latching on to a cool pass from Fa-Arodo on the edge of the penalty box. The 33-year old campaigner showed all the maturity of his years to slot a calm right-footed effort past Tien Wah to put the Solomons 3-0 up at the break.

There was much of the same in the second stanza as the Solomons continued to exploit their superior pace and control to add another goal.

Menapi was the beneficiary of another fantastic Fa-Arodo ball and duly doubled his Nations Cup tally with ten minutes remaining to hand the Solomons their biggest ever win over Tahiti.

The win takes the Solomons, albeit temporarily, to second place in the 2004 OFC Nations Cup with crucial encounters with Fiji and the hosts on the horizon.

Tahiti remains winless, and goal less after three matches, with top two hopefuls New Zealand awaiting them in the next round.

Tahiti: 1. Stanley Tien Wah (gk), 2. Angelo Tchen, 4. Iotua Kautai, 5. Jean-Yves Li Waut, 7. Samuel Garcia, 9. Gabriel Wajoka (8. Billy Mataitai 46-), 11. Taufa Neuffer (16. Felix Tagawa 46-), 12. Farahia Teuira, 13. Vincent Simon, 17. Hiro Labaste (10. Axel Temataua 63-), 18. Georges Pittoeff

Bookings: Garcia 87-

Solomon Islands: 1. Felix Ray (gk), 2. Leslie Leo, 3. Mahlon Houkarawa, 6. Nelson Sale, 7. Alick Maemae, 10. Batram Suri, 11. Commins Menapi, 16. Stanley Waita, 17. Gideon Omokirio, 18. Henry Fa-Arodo, 19. Paul Kakai

Bookings: Menapi 71-

Goals: Fa-Arodo 9-, Menapi 14-/79-, Suri 41-