Football: All Whites defy history with comfortable victory over Vanuatu at Oceania Nations Cup

Forward Max Mata has scored a brace of goals and winger Elijah Just has contributed to three, as the All Whites put the spectre of past defeat behind them with a 4-0 win over hosts Vanuatu at the Oceania Nations Cup.

Buoyed a parochial crowd at Freshwater Stadium, the home side went into the fixture hoping to repeat a historic victory over New Zealand at the same tournament 20 years ago, but left disappointed, as the Kiwis easily brushed aside the challenge, with two goals in each half.

That 2004 boilover at Adelaide by a largely amateur Vanuatu outfit severely undermined the All Whites' international football reputation at the time. With a smattering of professionals playing at their own stadium, they were optimistic of a repeat this time, against an NZ line-up missing many of its frontline performers.

Max Mata in action for the All Whites.
Max Mata in action for the All Whites. Photo credit: Photosport

Mata, who has just signed with A-League expansion club Auckland FC, opened the scoring in the 10th minute, when Just fired a cross to the right post, where his teammate met the ball with his head to find the back of the net.

Their second goal came from a series of deflections, when striker Ben Old's leftfoot shot glanced off a defender, kept out by the keeper, but Mata's follow also found a defender, before crossing the goal-line.

With his team leading 2-0 at halftime, Just had his goal in the 63rd minute, when he unleashed from outside the penalty, bouncing awkwardly past the keeper.

Just then laid on the final goal for Old, when he fed ball into the box and the striker converted from a sharp angle.

"It was a challenging day," reflected NZ coach Darren Bazeley. "The conditions are different to what our players are used to.

"Overall, I thought we were very comfortable and played good football when we had those moments. We're constantly challenging ourselves to be better and there are certain things I think we can step up every game."

New Zealand are fielding a squad combining full All Whites international with Olympic-bound U23 players, as they build depth towards their next World Cup qualifying cycle.

"It's a great experience for them," said Bazeley. "We've got a lot of young players out there and they won't have experienced this type of environment, this type of atmosphere.

"It was excitable and when you have an excitable crowd, the opposition and officials, it's exciting for them as well." 

The result confirms New Zealand atop their group, likely to meet the losers between Fiji and Tahiti in the semi-finals.

New Zealand 4 (Mata 2, Just & Old) Vanuatu 0