AUCKLAND - The All Whites have made the perfect (albeit delayed) start to their qualifying campaign with a crucial 2-0 away victory over Fiji in Lautoka.
A 32nd minute Ivan Vicelich goal gave the All Whites a slender one-nil lead at halftime, and a Shane Smeltz special four minutes from time sealed the points.
Vicelich latched on to a Jeremy Christie ball played over an advancing Fijian defence, and took advantage of some confusion – and claims of offside – caused by a retreating Chris Killen before lobbing the ball over Simone Tamanisau.
Mark Paston was not stretched in the New Zealand goal during the first half, although Fiji did cause some trouble for the All Whites defence either side of the half-hour mark through Roy Krishna – his efforts both blocked by New Zealand defenders.
Fiji started much brighter than New Zealand after the break and could have equalised in the 52nd minute through Osea Vakatalesau, whose header from 8 yards looped over Paston and off the crossbar.
The ball rebounded dangerously into the six yard box but Paston reacted quickest and swatted the bouncing ball clear of two Fijian attackers.
Shaking off their slower start to the half, the All Whites found the back of the net twice from the head of Shane Smeltz midway through the period, although both were ruled out for offside.
The in-form Wellington Phoenix was not to be denied, however, and as Fiji pressed higher, Smeltz found space on the left hand touchline before weaving a run through Fiji’s scrambling defence to the edge of the box and coolly slotting the ball into the top right-hand corner of Tamanisau's net.
Oceania Nations Cup / 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying:
New Zealand 2 (Vicelich 32, Smeltz 86) Fiji 0
Churchill Park, Lautoka
Referee: Jair Marrufo (USA)
Assistant Referee 1: Charles Morgante (USA)
Assistant Referee 2: Adam Wienckowski (USA)
Fourth Official: Baldomero Toledo (USA)
Fiji: 1-Simione TAMANISAU (gk), 4-Samuela VULA, 5-Ronil KUMAR (8-Pita BALEITOGA 59), 7-Roy KRISHNA, 10-Osea VAKATALESAU, 11-Pita RABO (9-Maciu DUNADAMU 77), 12-Peni FINAU (c), 13-Taniela WAQA, 15-Salesh KUMAR, 16-Malakai TIWA (2-Avinesh SUWAMY 70), 17-Malakai KAINIHEWE
Substitutes not used:, 3-Shalen LAL, 6-Apisalome TURUVA, 14-Tuimasi MANUCA, 20-Shamal KUMAR (gk).
Coach: Juan Carlos BUZZETTI
Cautions: Avinesh SUWAMY 73
New Zealand : 1-Mark PASTON (gk), 2-Jeremy CHRISTIE, 7-Ivan VICELICH, 5-Andy BOYENS (15-Ben SIGMUND 61), 3-Tony LOCHHEAD, 4-David MULLIGAN (17-Jeff CAMPBELL 58), 8-Tim BROWN (c), 16-Duncan OUGHTON, 11-Leo BERTOS, 9-Shane SMELTZ, 10-Chris KILLEN (13-Jarrod SMITH 87)
Substitutes not used: 12-James PRITCHETT, 14-Chris JAMES, 18-James BANNATYNE (gk).
Coach: Ricki HERBERT
Cautions: 10-Chris KILLEN 85, 17-Jeff CAMPBELL 88