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Vanuatu 1 - 2 New Zealand

PORT VILA – If New Zealand go on to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup they will remember Saturday’s gutsy 2-1 win in Vanuatu as a defining moment in their campaign.

StadiumSuper sub David Mulligan, a regular first-teamer openly gutted to be relegated to the All Whites bench, responded in perfect fashion with a 94th minute winner as New Zealand came from a goal down at Port Vila Stadium.

The 27-year-old Scunthorpe United utility, on for midfielder Ivan Vicelich in the 71st minute, nodded home his first All Whites goal at the far post after a Leo Bertos free-kick had been knocked back across Vanuatu’s goalmouth.

“To be dropped for you country is not a good thing,” Mulligan said.

“When I heard about it [this morning] I was quite down but to come on and score the winner is probably the best answer I could have given him [All Whites coach Ricki Herbert]…hopefully now I can push for a start in Wellington.”

New Zealand will enter Wednesday’s return leg against Vanuatu in Wellington with a five point buffer atop the Oceania Nations Cup standings after Fiji – whom the All Whites beat 2-0 in Lautoka on October 17 – wasted a 2-0 lead in Ba on Saturday to draw 3-3 with visiting New Caledonia.

The Thai Airways All Whites are certainly looking forward to playing their first home qualifier in almost six years on Westpac Stadium’s carpet like surface after Port Vila’s bumpy pitch meant Herbert’s men were unable to get the ball down and out wide with any fluidity as they had planned.

Vanuatu speedster Jean Nako Naprapol gave New Zealand a scare when he latched onto a great ball from standout midfielder Fenedy Masauvakalo and evaded the on-rushing Mark Paston to fire into an empty net on 27 minutes.

It appeared it might be one of those days for New Zealand when Bertos, Shane Smeltz and captain Tim Brown were all denied in a triple-treat effort from Vanuatu stopper Chikau Mansale three minutes later.

But New Zealand remained calm and were rewarded with a 53rd minute equaliser when in-form Wellington Phoenix marksman Shane Smeltz nodded another Bertos cross into the turf, over the out-stretched Mansale and into the roof of Vanuatu’s net.

There were two more hairy moments for New Zealand when Paston tipped a Masauvakalo bullet onto the bar in the 74th minute before turning away Seule Soromon’s 82nd minute effort with a great save, low and away to his right.

Mulligan then pounced as New Zealand desperately pushed on for a winner with the help of fresh fellow substitiutes Jarrod Smith and Daniel Ellensohn – the later who went agonisingly close to scoring on debut.

“It was difficult to keep the ball down and flowing which meant we had to go a bit more direct than we would have liked. But qualifying out of Oceania is all about winning and we’ve played two and got maximum points so I’m very pleased,” Herbert said afterwards.“

We won and that is all that matters. At the end of the day this really shows the resolve of the guys, to go down a goal and still fight back is fantastic.”

Herbert was delighted with Mulligan’s response.

“He’s probably disappointed he didn’t start but he got the winner and now he’s a hero for us.”

The coach also heaped praise on Auckland City central defender Ben Sigmund who was again mighty at the back in tandem with Toronto FC centrehalf Andy Boyens who made one telling tackle on Soromon to cap a steady afternoon.

"Ben Sigmund, for me, eptiomises the All Whites jersey, he’s a real heart on the sleeve guy. He won all his headers and was tidy. Paston also made a couple of great saves and [left back] Tony Lochhead just continues to grow every time he plays,” Herbert said.

Herbert said the All Whites had a “responsibility” to kick on in Wellington and press home their advantage atop the standings. The only worry for New Zealand was a corked thigh which forced Smeltz off with 15 minutes remaining.

But Mulligan is quietly confident New Zealand will excel once they are surrounded by their Yellow Fever-fuelled home fans on Wednesday (6pm NZT www.ticketek.co.nz).

"It was a tough game today, the conditions, the pitch weren’t good. It was tough a couple of weeks ago [in Lautoka] too. But we haven’t played any games at home yet so who knows, it could be a different story.”At Port Vila Stadium:

 


Oceania Nations Cup / 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying:

Vanuatu 1 (Jean Nako Naprapol 27) New Zealand 2 (Shane Smeltz 53, David Mulligan 90 +4). Halftime: 1-0.

Thai Airways All Whites
: Mark Paston (GK), James Pritchett, Andy Boyens, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Ivan Vicelich (David Mulligan 71), Tim Brown (captain), Duncan Oughton, Leo Bertos, Chris James (Jarrod Smith 68), Shane Smeltz (Daniel Ellensohn 85).
Substitutes not used:  Jacob Spoonley (RGK), Jeremy Christie, Jeff Campbell.

Vanuatu: Chikau Mansale (GK/ David Chilia 81), Jacques Mafil Nawan, Fedy Vava (captain), Ken Masauvakalo, Jean Nako Naprapol, Seule Soromon, Fenedy Masauvakalo, Pita David Maki (Francois Sakama 68), Alphonse Welin Qorig, Geoffrey Lego Gete, Hubert Nake (Andrew Chichirua 50).
Substitutes not used: Ephraim Kalorib, Moise Poida, Rickson Tari, Derek Malas, Jean Robert Yelou.

Cautions: Tim Brown 70, Francois Sakama 73.
Referee: Job Ponis Minan (Papua New Guinea)
Crowd: 5000

 

P

W

D

L

GF

GA

GD

PTS

New Zealand

2

2

0

0

4

1

3

6

New Caledonia

1

0

1

0

3

3

0

1

Fiji

2

0

1

1

3

5

-2

1

Vanuatu

1

0

0

1

1

2

-1

0

 

 

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