The All Whites have been held to a 0-0 draw by a determined New Caledonia side in wet and humid conditions Stade Yoshida in Koné for their away leg of the OFC Stage Three Qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Anthony Hudson’s team, who won the opening game on Saturday 2-0, were made to work for their point by New Caledonia who fought for everything until the last minute in front of their rowdy fans.
The home side, who had not beaten New Zealand on home turf since 1976, were outplayed in the opening exchanges but as the game wore on, and the conditions deteriorated, they grew more into the game and created some good chances in the second half.
The All Whites showed plenty of character to hold on at times – including a spectacular overhead kick from Bill Tuiloma to clear from the line – and will travel home to Auckland tomorrow with four points from their opening two games.
“I think you have to give credit to them,” said Hudson after the match.
“It was a tough place to come, they are a very tough team. I am very vocal in saying that we want to win every game and at the beginning we set a goal of getting a minimum of four points from these windows and I think we could have killed the game off with our chances early in the game but we kept a clean sheet and we are happy.”
Hudson and his team knows that if they do the same again in the March international window – four points from their home and away fixtures against Fiji – that will be enough to advance to the final stage of the OFC Qualifiers.
“We would have liked to have done it tonight obviously and there were a lot of positives as I say it is a very difficult place to come,” said Hudson.
The head coach made five changes to the starting XI who won 2-0 in Auckland. Michael Boxall, Monty Patterson, Kip Colvey, Moses Dyer and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi came in for Themi Tzimopoulos, Bill Tuiloma, Deklan Wynne, Clayton Lewis and Kosta Barbarouses.
“It was a combination of fresh legs and a couple of things from Saturday. We were trying to give people games,” he said of the revised four-four-two formation.
The All Whites should have gone ahead in the 15th minute when Andrew Durante – who was outstanding at the back for the visitors – went on a searching run down the middle of the park. The Wellington Phoenix captain found Chris Wood and then was back in the move to lay off for Patterson in front of goal, but the Ipswich Town forward could not find the target from in front of goal and had his head in his hands after the effort.
The more chances the visitors wasted the more the home side came into the match. New Caledonia used the same tactics they employed in Albany where they sat deep and countered with good effect.
A few promising attacks led by the likes of Cesar Zeoula and George Gope Fenepej were well stopped by a resolute black wall of defence led by Durante and Boxall and a great performance from Stefan Marinovic in goal.
The big keeper, who has now gone six and a half games without conceding a goal against OFC Nations, was again polished in goal in the pouring rain and kept a well-earned clean sheet.
— New Zealand Football (@NZ_Football) November 15, 2016
After the break the All Whites began with positive intent again. With around 30 minutes to go Patterson made way for Barbarouses and the Phoenix front man made an immediate impact.
Bill Tuiloma came on for Hudson Wihongi and made a superb acrobatic save with 20 minutes to play to help keep and clean sheet and Deklan Wynne came on for an injured Liam Graham.
— Paul Temple (@paultemplecoach) November 15, 2016
Emotions spilled over towards the end of the game and New Caledonia captain Bertrand Kai was sent off after head-butting Ryan Thomas in the closing stages.
New Zealand were disappointed to go home without the win but will have to be content with four points on their next step towards qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Russia.
New Caledonia 0 New Zealand 0
New Zealand 1. Stefan Marinovic. 5. Michael Boxall, 9. Chris Wood., 11. Marco Rojas, 13. Monty Patterson (7. Kosta Barbarouses 57’). 14. Ryan Thomas, 18. Kip Colvey, 19. Moses Dyer, 20. Te Atawhai Hudson Wihongi (6. Bill Tuiloma 58’). 21. Liam Graham (3. Deklan Wynne 65’) 22. Andrew Durante
Subs not used: 2. Henry Cameron, 12. Glen Moss (GK), 15. Clayton Lewis, 16. Louis Fenton, 17. Luke Adams 23. Tamati Wiliams