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New Zealand join Solomon Islands in semis

New Zealand who were pushed to the absolute limit by a talented and determined Papua New Guinea side who shocked many when they took a first half lead over the defending champions before going down 4-3.

New Zealand had enjoyed the majority of possession in the first half and had a slew of chances that they were unlucky not to see over the goal line and once again Papua New Guinea had goalkeeper Andrew Baniau to thank for a lot of that.

Although New Zealand were also their own worst enemy with a large majority of their shots going anywhere but on-target.

Papua New Guinea coach Anthony Pakakota made an early change to try Lee-Navu Faunt on for Joel Alex and it was a move that paid off almost immediately as a minute later his side took the lead.

Playing a lone striker role Siegfried Beschel put pressure on the goalkeeper Alex Paulsen after he received a pass back from the defender, whipping the ball off his foot, taking it around Paulsen and firing into the empty net.

New Zealand didn’t have anything left in the tank as they played out the remaining few minutes of the first half but were ready to bolt out of the blocks when the second half got underway.

Coach Jose Figueira made two half-time substitutions bringing in Henry Hamilton and Bradley Wilson in what proved an inspired decision by the gaffer.

Two minutes after the restart and Hamilton struck followed a minute later by Wilson to give New Zealand the lead for the first time in the encounter.

In the 55th minute Hamilton made it 3-1 when New Zealand turned over the ball deep in their own half before sending the striker through the backline to face down Baniau.

Papua New Guinea never once looked like giving up and as their opponents started to tire, the continued to take their chances when they came and soon Beschel was firing his second goal of the morning in.

New Zealand’s third sub Benjamin Old added a fourth for his side in the 83rd minute but PNG wasn’t done yet either with Beschel earning his hat-trick with a 90th minute header past Paulsen.

Figueira said his side started the match well but let themselves down as the match continued.

“I think we had four really good chances which we created building through the thirds and I think then suddenly, the boys might have thought it will come a bit easy, the goal will come,” he said.

“I made it clear at half-time that the teams here that we’re playing against don’t give up, you can’t take anything for granted.

“Then obviously we saw a great reaction in the second half but again, unfortunately, the mentality just slips, we get a bit lazy and complacent and the teams have got points to prove so again, happy to get the win and secure the semi.

“But big lessons for the boys in particular today.”

Following an impressive performance from his side Papua New Guinea coach Anthony Pakakota couldn’t help but be happy with his charges despite the loss.

“We’ve come prepared, we’ve done our homework on New Zealand and we gave them a challenge,” he said.

“We were determined for the win but unfortunately when you have kids like that they can lose concentration and I think we lost concentration in the second half and those three quick goals came from very clinical finishes.

“I think we worked on our zonal defending and holding off New Zealand’s 4-2-3-1 formation which builds up from the back.

“It’s a trap actually to get you to press them, then they’ll launch the ball from the back. But we held our positional defence well today and it paid off with the first goal.”

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