In the OFC Under 17 World Cup qualifiers, New Zealand made a stunning start to their defence of the OFC U-17 Championship title on Monday night with an 11-0 goal fest registered against Samoa in Tahiti.
Fellow Group B sides Fiji and Solomon Islands played out a thrilling 1-1 stalemate in the second encounter of the evening.
For the New Zealanders, qualification at the top of their group was always the initial outcome.
It was a strong start for the Kiwis who took just five minutes to register their first goal when Willem Ebbinge chested down an indirect free kick and volleyed it hard into the net.
His brace came just five minutes later when he followed up on an attempted clearance.
It was a much improved performance from the Samoans in the second half however the New Zealand side proved too powerful for the tiring side to overcome.
They held out until the 67th minute where an unmarked Palmer looped his header over the back-peddling Eti Fatu.
Palmer added two more to earn his hat-trick along with another to Spragg to join him. Captain Max Mata and Oliver Whyte also got in on the goalscoring action to take the Kiwis to 11.
A very early goal for Fiji – the quickest in the tournament so far at three minutes – helped with their confidence, while also putting their opponents Solomon Islands on the back foot.
It was a fast-paced encounter thanks in part to the quick-pass playing style the Solomon Islands adopted, combined with Fiji’s physicality and decision to use their height to their advantage with long balls.
Steward Toata, and his teammates up front combined well to keep the defence led by captain Mohammed Naizal busy.
Despite Solomon Islands’ advances they struggled to find the target and had to go into the break with a deficit of one goal.
Solomons came out with renewed energy in the second half throwing everything forward as they sought an equaliser.
They eventually got what they were after in the 51st minute when Elis Mana fired the ball into the net off an odd-angled cross from Steward Toata.
With the score locked at one apiece, the intensity of the match increased once again as both sides chased the three points. The Solomon Islanders had the better chances of the remaining period but couldn’t break down the Fiji back line forcing them to take a share of the points.