Wellington - Two goals apiece to Shane Smeltz and David Mulligan put the Thai Mulligan celebrates opening the scoring, chased by fellow goal scorer Shane Smeltz. Photo: Anthony PhelpsAirways All Whites on the brink of qualification to a playoff to the 2010 World Cup with a 4-1 victory over Vanuatu at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night.
The heroes from the 2-1 away leg on Saturday each grabbed a double to make it three-up three-down on the road to South Africa for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the 2009 Confederations Cup.
“We’ve certainly put ourselves in a good position. In terms of qualifiers, we’re three from three in 2007 and firmly in the driving seat now,” was Ricki Herbert’s assessment of the situation.
“It was just what we needed.”
Herbert was also pleased with the way his side delivered the result after a long wait to play at home.
“We showed our cards pretty early on. We were going to attack and players stuck to their roles well tonight.
“We haven’t been here for five years, and the players wanted to turn it on. We looked after the ball well and all round the pitch I think it was pretty comprehensive.”
Mulligan opened the scoring in the 14th minute and finished it in the 82 with a sublime freekick, while Smeltz took his white-hot streak to six goals in four games with his brace, which included one from the penalty spot.
Playing a five man midfield, the Thai Airways All Whites dominated possession were always in control and while the performance still wasn’t as fluid as they or the crowd might have hoped for, it was nonetheless effective, getting on top of their visitors early and allowing Vanuatu’s pacy strikers few chances.
Mulligan’s first goal, after 14 minutes, typified a cheeky performance, poking a foot through a Vanuatuan defender’s legs before he had a chance to clear a shot from Bertos which had cannoned off the crossbar.
His second oozed confidence as he demanded to take the 82nd minute freekick New Zealand had won 25 yards out and gladly accepted the gap Vanuatu’s keeper, David Chila, had left for him inside his right hand post.
Mulligan also went close to scoring directly from two first half corners - one headed off the line and another bouncing off the far post – and was almost gifted a third minute opener when Chila spilled a seemingly harmless long range speculator back towards his own goal
Mission accomplished: (L-R) Oughton, Mulligan, Bertos and Smeltz happy to get win number three. Photo: Anthony PhelpsSmeltz two goals took the game away from Vanuatu in the first half, doubling the All White’s lead with a 27th minute penalty after Bertos went down under a clumsy challenge from Ephraim Kalorib.
Bertos – who played just off Smeltz up front – was again the provider for Smeltz’s second seven minutes later, picking up the ball on the break just over the halfway line snaking a run past his marker before picking out his partner, who had ghosted to the back post to head New Zealand to a comfortable 3-0 halftime lead.
Vanuatu grabbed a goal back five minutes after the break when Francois Sakama beat two New Zealand defenders to a Moise Poida chip over the back three, and then hustled and harried the All Whites into their flat 20 minute period characterised by sloppy passing and indecision in front of goal.
But with a vocal yet disappointingly small crowd of just over 2500 baying for more, what would have been Smeltz’s hat-trick was cleared of the line, before a Mulligan special gave them something to remember.
With the group’s other fixture kicking off late in Noumea, it’s unclear just how big the lead on the table but with at least one more home game to come against New Caledonia and the location of the rescheduled Fiji match yet to be determined one more win is probably enough to see the All Whites through to the Confederations Cup and to a World Cup playoff with the fifth best team in Asia.
Oceania Nations Cup / 2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying:
Thai Airways All Whites 4 (Mulligan 14/82 Smeltz 27-pen / 34) Vanuatu 1 (Sakama 50).
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Avril Jacques (Tahiti)
Cautions: Mulligan (NZ), Brown (NZ), Sakama (Van), Vava (Van).
Red Cards: Brown (NZ)
Thai Airways All Whites: Mark Paston (GK), Ivan Vicelich, Ben Sigmund, Andy Boyens, Jeremy Christie (James Pritchett 73), David Mulligan (Jeff Campbell 76), Tim Brown (captain), Duncan Oughton, Tony Lochhead, Leo Bertos, Shane Smeltz (Jarrod Smith 73).
Substitutes: Jacob Spoonley (RGK), Chris James, Daniel Ellensohn.
Vanuatu: David Chilia (GK), Jacques Mafil Nawan, Fedy Vava (captain), Ephraim Kalorib (Rexly Tarivuti 42), Ken Masauvakalo, Jean Robert Yelou. Philip Tom Tomake, Moise Poida, Fenedy Masauvakalo (Seule Soromon 46), Jean Nako Naprapol, Francois Sakama
Substitutes not used: Rickson Tari, Jeffry Nimanian, Samson Obed, Derek Malas.