The New Zealand Football Ferns have gone down fighting in their opening game of the Cyprus Cup, losing to Scotland 3-2 at the A. Papadopoulos in Larnaca last night.
The World No 21 Scotland, who recently qualified for the Euro Championship in 2017, their first major tournament, went ahead early through Jane Ross who followed up after a Christie Murray shot hit the crossbar.
New Zealand adopted a new attacking formation of 3-4-3 which created space for Rosie White up front. White levelled things up when she scored her 15th international goal for New Zealand to make it 1-1 heading into half-time. It looked as if the match was heading for a draw until the dramatic final 10 minutes.
Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert came off the bench and changed the game. The 18-year-old hit a great strike on the turn in the 83rd minute to take the lead. Scotland’s captain Kim Little, in her 120th cap for her country, fired the Scots further ahead and scored the decisive third goal.
New Zealand pulled one back through prolific striker Amber Hearn who headed home for her 53rd international goal for New Zealand, but the Kiwis could not find the late equaliser.
Football Ferns coach Tony Readings said he was happy with the performance in the team’s first game in six months, but ultimately they were frustrated they didn’t get anything from the game.
“We played well so it is one of those games you come away very disappointed to lose,” he said.
“We didn’t start as well as we would have liked, but we came back into the game, and had the chances where we could have been up.”
Readings said the team continued to create a number of chances in the second half but they could not finish and then were punished by Scotland.
“They have scored one completely out of the blue and we pushed forward and they scored again so they were two bitter blows but we kept going and we scored and even after that second goal we had another couple of chances that we should have put away.”
New Zealand defender Ali Riley enjoyed being back on the field with the team and felt they will get better with more time together.
“We are always disappointed with a loss, but we are trying a new formation which created a lot of opportunities to get our fast players in behind. There were definitely some opportunities for us to build off but we were a bit disorganised with that new formation and they punished us when we were out of position,” she said.
New Zealand will look to bounce back in their second game of the Cyprus Cup against World No 24 Austria on Saturday (1:30am NZ time) at the same venue.
The Cyprus Cup is a global invitational tournament for national teams in women’s football. It has been held annually in Cyprus since 2008.
New Zealand has never won the tournament – their best result came in 2010 when they finished runner-up to Canada, losing 1-0 in the final.