Tahiti’s explosive temperament landed them in hot water at Waikaraka Park yesterday after they were beaten convincingly by a vastly improved and composed New Zealand team.
New Zealand’s performance was peppered by outstanding individual contributions by Team Wellington striker Costa Barbarouses and Youngheart Manawatu midfielder Corey Chettleburgh.
Barbarouses – who missed New Zealand’s 3-2 victory over Tahiti at the weekend due to NZFC commitments – added composure and guile to the Kiwi frontline providing Tahiti’s back four with a headache they never seemed able to remedy as he helped himself to a brilliant hat-trick.
Barbarouses composure was in stark contrast to the jittery performance by Tahiti’s back four. While Tahiti retained good shape in general play they struggled with high aerial balls and were once again caught overplaying on the edge of their own penalty area.
New Zealand’s first goal came as a direct result of Tahiti’s desire to play intricately in front of their own goal when a longer clearance may have produced less destructive results.
The second strike arrived on the stroke of half-time when a New Zealand clearance found Barbarouses surrounded by two defenders. In the hustle and bustle of the resulting melee Tahiti had three chances to clear the danger but on each occasion failed.
The fleet-footed striker then beat the keeper with a stinging finish that illustrated the gap between the two sides.
The impact of conceding two sloppy goals after what had been an evenly contested match could have sunk the Tahitians without trace as New Zealand found a confidence that had been missing at the weekend.
Tahiti got their opportunity to stage a comeback when they were awarded a penalty early in the second-half. With the spotkick converted Tahiti quickly made life difficult for themselves when they were reduced to ten men following an innocuous challenge on halfway.
The refereeing may have been slightly pedantic but the player can have little complaint having been warned once in the 1st half for not retreating 10 yards from the ball before eventually being booked for repeating the offence. Therefore to slide into a challenge, even a relatively soft one, was inviting trouble, particularly at international level.
There was never any danger of Tahiti growing in stature as New Zealand had at the weekend with ten men and their job was made even more difficult when Tahiti lost one of its most influential players to injury.
New Zealand sensed blood and the introduction of Moses Petelo meant the Kiwis were able to create a goal threat whenever they poured forward. It was inevitable that New Zealand would add to their tally and they didn’t have long to wait before Tahiti’s keeper helped their cause.
After rushing out to take the ball off the toe of a New Zealand player spectacularly, the Tahitian keeper continued to chase down the still loose ball when it would’ve been better to retreat goalwards.
The second encounter Tahiti’s keeper had with another New Zealand player lacked any of the finesse of his first effort and a penalty was awarded and converted by Barbarouses.
The game was effectively over as a contest when Petelo added a superb fourth side-footing home a precise cross from just a few yards off the line.
If Tahiti are to stop New Zealand from dominating them in the third game they will have to adjust their temperament somewhat. Technically the Tahitians have plenty to offer but whether they possess the discipline and mentality to sustain a 90 minute performance against a confident and improving New Zealand remains to be seen.