AUCKLAND – A 10-man All Whites side was denied a perfect record in their Oceania Nations Cup campaign by losing 0-2 to Fiji in Lautoka on Wednesday night.
Waitakere United striker Roy Krishna was the hero as Fiji made the most of their numerical advantage – caused by the contentious 59th minute dismissal of goalkeeper Glen Moss – firing a low shot past reserve stopper Jacob Spoonley four minutes later and completing his double from close range in the 90th minute as New Zealand chased the game.
With qualification to the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup and a playoff for the 2010 FIFA World Cup already assured, the All Whites looked to the future by blooding a host age-group internationals in the dead rubber – originally scheduled for Auckland last October, but postponed because of a visa refusal to Fiji’s goalkeeper.
Head coach Ricki Herbert was keen to continue looking forward with New Zealand’s next international – likely to be next March – marking the start of the All Whites preparations for June’s Confederations Cup and November’s World Cup playoff.
“At the end of the day no-one likes to lose internationals,” Herbert said.
“We needed two away games in Fiji like a hole in the head. There was no budget for this game, but we knew that. We’ve ticked it off and now we focus on building a programme for next year beginning in the FIFA window on March 28.”
“Ideally we’ll look to the Middle East or to Asia as that’s what we’ll face later in November.”
“We go away now looking to create a World Cup qualifying campaign New Zealanders can be proud of.”
Herbert handed starting debuts to striker Greg Draper, midfielder Cole Peverley and right winger Costa Barbarouses, and introduced reserve goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley and Kris Bright in the second half for their first All Whites cap.
But for more clinical finishing in front of goal from the Oceania champions, the debutants would have enjoyed warmer memories of their first senior international.
Fiji rode their luck in the first half as New Zealand constantly found finding space behind Fiji’s fullbacks, monopolised possession, and created numerous chances but weren’t able to convert their dominance into an early lead.
Jeremy Brockie headed a Leo Bertos cross over the bar in the second minute as a sign of things to come, with Jeremy Christie and Steven Old firing shots over, or off, the crossbar in the opening stages.
The woodwork was all that prevented Draper scoring on debut after looping a header over the Fijian keeper following another penetrative move down the left hand flank by Brockie in the 26th minute, while Bertos blasted a free-kick centimetres wide on the half-hour mark.
Krishna had Fiji’s only chance of the first half and drew a sharp save from Glen Moss at his near post after 20 minutes, but that shot aside, the Fijians rarely threatened to break down New Zealand’s defence before halftime.
But, amidst a much livelier second half start from Fiji, Moss’s controversial dismissal 14 minutes after the break swung the match in their favour.
A tackle by Osea Vakatalasau on James Pritchett left the kiwi fullback injured, and Moss protested to Vanuatu referee Lencie Fred only to be shown a red card after a verbal exchange.
With their tails up, Fiji pushed hard and Krishna’s goal brought the 3000 strong local crowd on their feat as they sensed an upset, and with the All Whites going a defender light in order to push numbers forward in the dying stages, Krishna latched on to Jone Vono’s cross to seal victory as the clocked ticked down.
The draw for the Confederations Cup will be made in South Africa on November 22.
2008 OFC Nations Cup/2010 FIFA World Cup Qualifying:
November 19, 2008
Thai Airways All Whites 0 Fiji 2 (Roy Krishna 63, 90)
Referee: Lencie FRED (VAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Mahit CHILIA (VAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Michael JOSEPH (VAN)
4th official: Job Ponis MINAN (PNG)
Thai Airways All Whites: 1-Glen MOSS (GK), 2-David MULLIGAN, 4-Jeremy CHRISTIE, 5-Ben SIGMUND (captain), 6-Steven Old, 7-Leo BERTOS, 8-Cole PEVERLEY, 9-Jeremy BROCKIE, 10-Greg DRAPER (18-Jacob SPOONLEY RGK/59)., 14-James PRITCHETT, 15-Costa BARBAROUSES (12-Kris BRIGHT 68).
Substitutes not used: 3-Aaron SCOTT, 11-Allan PEARCE, 13-Jeff CAMPBELL.
Coach: Ricki HERBERT (NZL)
Red Cards: 1-Glen MOSS
Fiji: 1-Simione TAMANISAU, 2 Esaba NAQELECA, 4-Lesubu LAMAILEPANONI, 5-Alvin SINGH , 6-Laitia TUIAU , 7-Pita SENIBIAUKULA, 10-Osea VAKATALESAU (8-Tuimasi MANUCA 77), 11-Roy KRISHNA, 15-Salesh KUMAR, 16-Malakai TIWA, 17-Malakai KEINAHEWE (13-Jone VONO 46)
Substitutes not used: 20-Benaminio MATEINAQUARA (RGK), 3-Malakai WAQA, 9-Josaia BUKALIDI, 12-Maciu DUNADAMU, 14-Niumaia TAGI.
Coach: Juan Carlos BUZZETTI (Aus)
Cautions: 15-Salesh KUMAR 40.
OFC Nations Cup Final Standings:
*New Zealand qualify for the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 and a playoff against the 5th placed team from the Asian World Cup regional qualifying for a spot in the FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010.