New Zealand have secured top spot in Group B and a place in the OFC U-17 Championship quarter-finals as Luke Flowerdew’s four goals helped them to a resounding 11-0 win over American Samoa.
Head coach Martin Bullock changed his entire starting XI from the opening day win over New Caledonia and the replacements were clearly looking to impress at the Fiji FA Academy.
Jesper Edwards got the ball rolling inside five minutes for New Zealand, heading home after Harry Huxford’s corner-kick had evaded onrushing American Samoa goalkeeper Alex Mae’e.
New Zealand were looking particularly dangerous on the flanks and wide-man Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues doubled the advantage after 10 minutes when his long-range drive bobbled in.
The American Samoa goalie was the busiest boy in Ba at times, doing well to deny Huxford, Eric Sugahara and front-man Flowerdew but the latter soon got his first of the game, stooping low to beat Mae’e to substitute Anton Isaako’s cross.
Another substitute, Matthew D’Hotman de Villiers, benefitted from Mae’e’s handling error to score the fourth just moments after replacing the injured Jackson Cole. Flowerdew then followed up on his own effort to secure a five-goal lead for New Zealand at the break.
Johnica Collins was American Samoa’s main threat, the captain working tirelessly throughout. However, the skipper could not capitalise on a self-made opportunity early in the second period, dragging his effort wide.
Despite an improved showing from American Samoa early in the second period a quickfire double soon had New Zealand back on the goal trail. First, Sloane-Rodrigues earned his brace with a calm back-post volley before Flowerdew’s cool finish secured his third with 20 minutes remaining.
D’Hotman de Villiers made it eight before Luke Supyk came off the bench to score his fourth goal of the tournament from the penalty spot.
Not to be outdone, Flowerdew joined Supyk at the top of the scoring charts with his fourth of the game to ensure New Zealand hit double figures before D’Hotman de Villiers’ deserved hat-trick wrapped things up.
Reigning champions New Zealand are now through to the final eight as Group B winners. Meanwhile, American Samoa will take on New Caledonia on January 17 in the final Group B clash, with both teams hoping to advance into the next stage of the competition.
NEW ZEALAND 11 (Jesper EDWARDS 4′, Gabriel SLOANE-RODRIGUES 10′, 68′, Luke FLOWERDEW 38′, 45+2, 70′, 88′ Matthew D’HOTMAN DE VILLIERS 42′, 76, 90+1, Luke SUPYK 87′ p)
AMERICAN SAMOA 0