Mata earns draw for New Zealand in U17 WC opener against Turkey

Emlyn Wellsmore of New Zealand and Recep Gul of Turkey fight for the ball during their Group B encounter.
Emlyn Wellsmore of New Zealand and Recep Gul of Turkey fight for the ball during their Group B encounter.
Matthew Lewis - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

New Zealand came back from a goal down to draw 1-1 against Turkey in the opening Group B match of the FIFA U-17 World Cup at the DY Patil Stadium in Mumbai on Friday.

Striker Ahmed Kutucu's header put Turkey in front in the 18th minute, before New Zealand captain Max Mata equalized in the 58th minute.

The two countries had drawn 1-1 in their only previous encounter in the tournament eight years ago.

Turkey, making their third appearance in this tournament, appeared the more skillful team in the first half and put New Zealand under pressure with their quick passing as unseasonal rains welcomed both sides.

New Zealand, who have made the tournament proper for the eighth time and sixth in a row, came into their own in the second half to equalise and even dominated play for a prolonged spell.

The Turks' forward duo of Ahmed Kutucu and Malik Karaahmet got splendid support from the midfield, in which Kerem Kesgin and Atalay Babacan stole the show in the first half. Turkey's first chance came in the eighth minute following a speedy overlapping run on the left flank by Melih Gokcimen, whose angular effort was easily blocked by New Zealand goalie Jacob Clark.

New Zealand, who counter-attacked on occasions, tried to take advantage of a tentative Turkey defense and saw Kingsley Sinclair hook a ball while off balance just wide of the left post off a feed from Elijah Just.

This was five minutes before the superb headed goal by Kutucu, who is registered with German club FC Schalke 04, as he rose to meet Kesgin's corner's from the right.

Kutucu was booked for rough play soon afterwards, but continued to threaten the New Zealand defence, coming close to his second in the 39th minute, only to see his shot from close range blocked by the keeper.

Turkey came close again in the 51st minute when captain Recep Gul advanced into the box to meet a cross from the right, but his left-footed effort was blocked by Clark.

An unmarked Mata took advantage of a defensive lapse in the 58th minute by running forward to meet a short free-kick taken by midfielder Just, beating Turkey goalkeeper Berke Ozer with a left-footed shot.

Turkey made three changes by replacing Kutucu, Karaahmet and then Gokcimen, but failed to cobble the sort of attacking moves with which they repeatedly troubled their rivals in the first half.

Turkey were fortunate not to concede a second goal when Just's left-footed shot on- the-run hit the left post.

Turkey next play Mali, while New Zealand will face Paraguay at the same venue.