18 Mar 2012

OlyWhites win despite red card

8:14 am on 18 March 2012

The New Zealand football team hoping to qualify for the London Olympics has beaten Papua New Guinea 1-0 in their qualifier in Taupo - despite going down to 10 men early in the second half.

Things looked bleak when striker Dakota Lukas was handed a straight red card but the OlyWhites scored about 10 minutes later through fellow forward Sean Lovemore and then saw out the victory.

The hosts next play Tonga on Tuesday afternoon, needing just a draw to progress to the semi-finals.

They will be without the suspended Lucas for that match but will have Melbourne Victor's Marco Rojas to call on after he joins the team on Saturday night.

Papua New Guinea were well organised defensively but New Zealand still rattled the woodwork twice in the first half and had shots saved, blocked or sail wide.

New Zealand coach Neil Emblen says it wasn't the statement they wanted to send out but is pleased that his side looked hard to score against.

Lucas was dismissed for abusive language towards an opponent 10 but the OlyWhites responded with some of their best passages of possession and still created more chances than their opponents.

In other games on the opening day, Fiji beat the Solomon Islands 1-0 and Vanuatu absolutely thrashed American Samoa 8-0.

On Sunday Papua New Guinea play Tonga, American Samoa are up against Fiji and the Solomons face Vanuatu.

New Zealand have the bye.