New Zealand has been crowned the OFC Under-17 Champions for the ninth time after edging a gutsy New Caledonia 1-0 in the final at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva tonight.
Niko Bruce capitalised on a goalkeeping error in the first half to ensure New Zealand win the tournament despite being reduced to ten men and New Caledonia dominating for large periods.
A moment of silence was held by both sides in memory of Ruben Kutran, New Caledonia’s captain at the 2018 edition of this tournament, who passed away in December last year at just 20 years old.
Anthony Levy and Jean-Yves Saiko tested the handling of New Zealand stopper Foord in the opening minutes of the match.
New Zealand hit back through Harrison Tisch’s direct corner kick was headed off the line by Bayron Gohoupe.
New Zealand’s Ryan Lee replaced Jackson Cole, who suffered a head injury but it was his deflected cross that goalkeeper Claude Tiaouniane bungled before Bruce smashed home the opener at the second attempt.
Ten minutes into the second period, Supyk dragged an opportunity to double his side’s but New Zealand were reduced to 10 men when defender Luka Coveny received his second card from referee Veer Singh with no choice but to brandish a second yellow after a professional foul on Nolhann Alebate.
New Zealand goalkeeper Foord proved the hero in the final seconds of the game, producing an incredible reflex save from Kyllian Wiako’s close-range header, tipping the ball away.
Both the teams have qualified to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru later this year.
New Zealand: Matthew Foord (GK), Luka Coveny, Dylan Gardiner ©, Konstantino Gorgiovski, Luke Supyk, Jackson Cole, Harry Huxford, Jesper Edwards, Harrison Tisch, Adam Watson, Niko Bruce
New Caledonia: Claude Tiaouniane (GK), Gregory Diko, Wadria Hanye, Joseph Hnassilin ©, Anthony Levy, Nolhann Alebate, Jythrim Upa, Bayron Gohoupe, Jean-Philippe Angexetine, Timoteo Zeter, Jean-Yves Saiko