The 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.
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 in the ninth minute.
The Ferns, playing their first game since the Rio Olympics, rallied and Rosie White found the back of the net. The Boston Breakers’ forward levelled things up when she scored after intercepting a pass and calmly slotted past the goalkeeper in the 20th minute. White scored her 15th goal in 85 internationals for New Zealand to make it 1-1 heading into half-time.
It looked as if the match was heading for a draw until a dramatic final 10 minutes played out.
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 with four minutes of regulation time to play.
— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) March 1, 2017
The World No 19 Ferns 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. After a NZ corner was cleared, substitute CJ Bott delivered a cross to the far post for Hearn to finish with a powerful downward header.
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) March 1, 2017
Listen to audio from an interview with Football Ferns coach Tony Readings on his side’s 3-2 loss to Scotland
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,” said Readings. “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.”
Listen to audio from an interview with Football Ferns defender Ali Riley
Football Ferns defender Ali Riley was also gutted with the loss, but felt the team will get better with more time together on this tour.
“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.”
The Ferns 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 GSP Nicosia.
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.
New Zealand 2 (Rosie White 20’, Amber Hearn 90’ +2’) Scotland 3 (Jane Ross 9’, Erin Cuthbert 84’, Kim Little 86’)
New Zealand: 1. Erin Nayler, 2. Ria Percival (18. CJ Bott 45’), 5. Abby Erceg ©, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 8. Jasmine Pereira (17. Hannah Wilkinson 45’), 9. Amber Hearn, 10. Annalie Longo (12. Betsy Hassett 71’), 13. Rosie White (27. Paige Satchell 86’) 14. Katie Bowen, 15. Meikayla Moore (3. Anna Green 65’)
Substitutes not used: 11. Kirsty Yallop, 20. Daisy Cleverley, 21. Anna Leat, 22. Aimee Phillips, 25. Martine Puketapu, 28. Malia Steinmetz