New Zealand got back to winning ways at the OFC Futsal Championship on Friday, claiming a 3-1 victory over hosts Fiji at the Vodafone Arena in Suva.
First half goals from Tai Barham and Dylan Manickum paved the way to the result with Lucas Da Silva adding the Futsal Whites’ third goal in the second half after Fiji’s Mira Sahib got his side back into the contest after the break.
The result sees the New Zealand side retain second spot in the standings, three points behind leaders the Solomon Islands – two-time FIFA Futsal World Cup representatives from Oceania – with only Saturday’s final round to play.
In Friday’s other results, the Solomon Islands were 6-1 winners over Vanuatu while Tahiti claimed a 2-1 victory in their clash with New Caledonia.
New Zealand’s last game of the tournament is against New Caledonia on Saturday at 9pm (NZ time). The winner of the tournament qualifies for the FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia later this year.
Fiji made a stronger start to Friday’s encounter than in previous matches, working shooting chances but unable to make those count inside the opening 15 minutes.
New Zealand responded when Barham put his side ahead in the 16th minute as latched onto the ball and fired in before Manickum made it 2-0 via his deflected shot with just six first half seconds still on the clock.
Fiji continued into the second 20 minutes as they had in the first, exploiting the space and keeping Futsal Whites goalkeeper Elias Billeh busy in goal. They were rewarded for their efforts when captain Sahib raced into the area to finish a move he’d started in his own half.
Da Silva then capitalized on a Fiji error with eight minutes to play to provide the final margin.
Despite earning the result, New Zealand coach Scott Gilligan said his team struggled to match the level of some of their previous showings.
“Yes we always wanted to get the three points, it wasn’t a great performance however,” Gilligan said.
“I think after the last game the boys were still a bit down and Solomons beat Vanautu today which means it’s pretty much over for these boys and I think they understood that.
“But we got the win and I think that’s important.”
Highlights: Fiji v New Zealand (via OFC TV)
OFC Futsal Championships 2016
Friday 12 February
Fiji 1-3 New Zealand (half: 0-2)
FIJ: Mira Sahib 25.44’
NZL: Tai Barham 16.28’, Dylan Manickum 19.54’, Lucas Da Silva 32.24’