Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
The Oly Whites are through to the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier 2023 final after an impressive 8-0 win over Vanuatu in the first semi-final at Go Media Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland.
Darren Bazeley’s side was dominant from the outset and cruised through to Saturday night’s final at North Harbour Stadium against the winner of the second semi-final between Fiji and the Solomon Islands (Kick off 7pm NZT).
New Zealand should have taken the lead in the second minute when captain Finn Surman nodded the ball across the goal, but Oskar Van Hattum fired wide from point blank range.
A minute later the Kiwis were in front via a through ball from Aaryan Raj which pierced the defence and Jesse Randall ran on and slotted the ball to the right of Vanuatu goalkeeper Massing Kalotong for the opener.
The onslaught continued with Van Hattum making up for his early miss, heading home in the 10th minute before Randall had his second two minutes later, running down the left-hand flank and confidently slotting past the keeper at the near post.
New Zealand made it four on 17 minutes when George Ott was brought down by Kalotong in the box. Ott dusted himself down and fired home from the penalty spot.
The home side was rampant with Vanuatu struggling to retain possession and guilty of giving their opponents too much space on the ball. The Kiwis continued to carve out chances and but for the heroics of Kalotong in the Vanuatu net would have had a few more goals in the first spell.
Vanuatu had a chance to pull a goal back with their first attempt but from a corner, Joel Botleng fired over the top of the crossbar.
Van Hattum headed home getting in front of the keeper six minutes from half-time to make it 5-0 before Ryan Verney fired home for a sixth just before the break.
New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley made a handful of changes at the break and the onslaught continued with Aaryan Raj scoring the seventh in the 53rd minute with a deft header back across the face of the goal and into the far corner.
Substitute Keegan Kelly should have made it eight, 10 minute later when he fired onto the crossbar from just outside the six-yard box. Raj then scored his second, unmarked at the far post following a corner.
Vanuatu avoided any further carnage and will at least take some satisfaction that they only conceded twice in the second spell after their first half struggles.
New Zealand Head Coach Darren Bazeley was thrilled with his side’s performance.
“We were really positive and played our game and played some really good football and scored a lot of goals so it was a good day,” he said.
But he felt the final would be significantly harder no matter who they face.
“We have played Fiji and they are a big strong outfit and the Solomons have got some skilful quick players. So it will be a big test but we are one game away from qualifying for the Olympics so we have to get on track and get ready for the game,” Bazeley said.
New Zealand: 8 (Jesse RANDALL 3’, 12’, Oskar VAN HATTUM 10’, 39’, George OTT (P) 17’, Ryan VERNEY 43’, Aaryan RAJ 57’, 72’)