New Zealand has continued it's unbeaten run at the Oceania Under-20 football Championship with a come-from-behind win over Tahiti in Vanuatu.
New Zealand, who opened their campaign with a 3-0 win over the Cook Islands on Saturday, moved to the top of the Group B standings after a hard-fought 4-1 win in the hot and humid conditions.
It also qualifies them for the semi-finals.
"I am really happy with the boys," said NZ U-20 coach Darren Bazeley. "It was a tough game with their style of play and the players they have. It was very competitive out there. There weren't many chances and they are very good at spoiling play so I am pleased with the character we showed. Our boys know all about the pressure and how much we need to win so to go a goal down and still come out with an impressive win was a good shift in a tough game."
Tahiti, who famously upset New Zealand in 2008 to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Egypt, went ahead in the 27th minute.
But the response was immediate from the New Zealand side as they look to qualify for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea. A floated free kick caused Tahiti all sorts of problems and their goalkeeper took Sarpreet Singh out of play.
Referee Medric Lacour did not hesitate in pointing to the spot and midfielder Moses Dyer converted the penalty in the 39th minute.
The scores remained 1-1 at half-time and both teams came out fighting from the get-go in the second half which prompted referee Medric to talk to both captains. Bazeley made two changes at the break with Singh and Charlie Thomas making way for Lucas Imrie and Jake Porter respectively but it did not stop their momentum.
New Zealand went ahead with their skipper Clayton Lewis, one of the standout performers all afternoon for the New Zealand team and a constant threat on goal, who hammered a low drive in at the back post. Tahiti tried to fight their way back into the game but took their physical approach too far. Hauragi Huri, who was cautioned in the first half, was sent off when he was shown a second yellow card and it proved to be a turning point in the match.
Two minutes later defender Hunter Ashworth put New Zealand further ahead when he capitalised on Tahiti going down to 10 men.
Tahiti, who drew their opening match 2-2 with Solomon Islands, looked to counter but New Zealand had the game under control in the closing stages. Logan Rogerson was subbed for George Debenham in the 80th minute before Myer Bevan capped off a good afternoon. The hat-trick hero from the opening game slotted home a cross from substitute Jake Porter at the back post in the 87th minute.
New Zealand face the Solomon Islands on Saturday at the same venue in their final pool match ahead of the semi-finals next week.