PAPEETE, Tahiti (AP) — Shane Smeltz and Ben Sigmund scored as New Zealand beat Tahiti 2-0 to retain its unbeaten record through three matches in the third stage of Oceania regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Striker Smeltz scored in the 24th minute and defender Sigmund headed the second in the 82nd as New Zealand stayed on top of the four-team qualifying ladder with its third-straight win.
Tahiti, the Oceania Nations Cup champions who will represent the Pacific region in next year's Confederations Cup in Brazil, have yet to post a win in three matches in the third stage of qualifying.
New Zealand overcame the absence its injured captain, Queens Park Rangers defender Ryan Nelsen, and West Ham defender Winston Reid to win the match in the Tahitian capital.
After finishing only third at the Oceania Nations Cup — the second stage of qualifying — behind Tahiti and New Caledonia, New Zealand has dominated the latest round-robin qualifying stage. It beat New Caledonia in Noumea and the Solomon Islands at home to take maximum points from its three matches.
New Caledonia beat the Solomon Islands 6-2 in Honiara on Friday to improve its record to two wins from three games. France-based striker Georges Gope-Fenepej scored four goals as New Caledonia followed up its 2-0 win over Tahiti which reversed its first-up 2-0 loss to New Zealand.
New Zealand meets Tahiti again in Christchurch and New Caledonia hosts the Solomon Islands in Noumea on Tuesday in the fourth round of matches in the qualifying tournament.
The four nations meet in home and away qualifying matches which continue until March next year, after which the winner plays a South American qualifier for a place in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.