Papua New Guinea and New Zealand took the field on Friday, March 18th, in the first round of Group A of the World Cup qualifiers.
New Zealand still without their key players who are with their clubs in Europe, and the Kapuls could not count on David Browne, who did not get permission from the PNG immigration department.
In the beginning of the match PNG started pressing New Zealand high and making it difficult for the All Whites to get the ball out – just as their coach Marcos Gusmão had promised.
After the first 20 minutes New Zealand took control of the game. The first big chance came from Andre De Jong, a cross from the right from Barbarouses, the number 14 deflected the ball and it passed near the post of Warisan.
Ati Kepo had to leave injured in the first half. Kolu Kepo stepped into his place – in the position where David Browne should be playing if able to play.
At 34 minutes Warisan had to intervene for New Zealand not to take the lead, Howieson passed to Dalton Wilikins who gave a beautiful dribble in Daniel Joe and crossed for Matt Garbett only not to score because of the excellent save of the PNG goalkeeper.
In the second half New Zealand again dictated the rhythm of the match and created the best chances – in a corner kick taken by Clayton Lewis in the 51st minute, Warisan was off his goal and Joe Champness headed the ball with the goal free, luckily Daniel Joe saved the ball on the goal line.
Soon after, the Kapuls were dealt a heavy blow when David Muta left injured – making way for the debut of Yagi Yasasa.
In the 60th minute Papua New Guinea’s big chance of the game, Gunemba played a back heel for Daniel Joe to cross and Kolu Kepo headed the ball just off target. This was Papua New Guinea’s best chance of the match.
Within 15 minutes left in the game, the controversy started: Garbett’s quick free-kick to Dane Ingham found Ben Waine free in the box to score what proved to be the winner for New Zealand.
Despite the controversy and the appealing of Papua New Guinean players, the play seemed to be under the rules and goal was correctly given.
Even after the goal New Zealand still had a chance to score with Logan Rogerson heading the ball in off the post. Matt Garbett – New Zealand’s best player of the match – had a medium range shot that hit the post again. Ronald Warisan saved Papua New Guinea again at the final minutes of the game saving a header coming from Niko Boxall.
Despite the defeat, the Kapuls made New Zealand work hard to get the win. It must be highlighted the brilliant performance of the Komolong brothers at the heart of the defense playing a key role for their national team.
New Zealand next match is against Fiji, while Papua New Guinea face New Caledonia seeking for a good result in order to keep their chances of progression to the semifinals alive.