All Whites ease past Tahiti into Nations Cup final

The All Whites secured their spot in the final of the OFC Nations Cup after a comfortable 5-0 victory over Tahiti in the semi-final in Port Vila on Thursday.

New Zealand coach Darren Bazeley made only one change from the team that beat Vanuatu 4-0, with Ben Waine returning to the starting line-up to replace Max Mata.

Tahiti also made one forced replacement, with Kevin Barbe coming in for the injured Eddy Kaspard, who had hoped to play in front his Vanuatu family connections. The other player with Vanuatu connections, Matatia Paama, also had to sit out the match due to his suspension from a red card against Papua New Guinea.

The last Tahiti victory over New Zealand was back in 1995, but Samual Garcia’s team were drawing confidence from a narrow 0-1 loss in their last encounter during FIFA World Cup qualifying in 2022 in Qatar.

In the semi-final of that World Cup qualifying tournament, New Zealand struggled to break down the strong Tahitians, but on Thursday in Port Vila they quickly took the bit between the teeth.

Their early endeavour was rewarded after only eight minutes when Liberato Cacace’s free-kick was tipped onto the post, straight into the path of Finn Surman to tap home the rebound for his first international goal in his fourth appearance.

Cacace, who had not scored a goal since the Tahiti match in 2022, must have been wondering if he would ever score when he was again denied by the post only minutes later.

Tahiti took nearly 20 minutes to threaten the New Zealand goal, when Tyler Bindon cleared a dangerous corner off the line and a brief moment later, Tauhiti Keck tried to catch out goalkeeper Max Crocombe, but his long-range effort drifted wide.

Tahiti's Tauhiti Keck New Zealand's Tyler Bindon.

New Zealand continued to create openings and finally got their reward on the stroke of half-time when a Kostas Barbarouses assist was expertly dispatched by Ben Waine for his third goal of the tournament.

The provider turned goalscorer in injury-time, after a mazy run by Cacace put the ball on a platter for Barbarouses, who gave goalkeeper Teave Teamotuatitau little chance and virtually guaranteed New Zealand a place in Sunday’s final.

A few words of encouragement from Garcia at half-time spurred the Tahitians into action in the second period and captain Teaonui Tehau got agonisingly close to getting his team back into the contest, only to see his shot go over the crossbar.

Any hopes of a Tahiti comeback were extinguished when player of the match Cacace again stormed into the box and delivered a pinpoint cross for Waine to score his second brace of the tournament.

Barbarouses also got his double minutes later, following up on an initial attempt by substitute Alex Grieve which was blocked on the line, taking his tally to seven goals in 59 caps, across a staggering 18 seasons.

New Zealand should have increased their tally, but some desperate defending and poor finishing spared Tahiti’s blushes.

Bazeley and his side will now wait to discover their opponents in the final, when Fiji take on Vanuatu in the day’s second semi-final.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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