AUCKLAND – A first half header from Rory Fallon capped a dream debut and set a ten-man All Whites on the way to a 3-1 win over Jordan in Amman.
Fallon also won a 17th minute penalty, which Shane Smeltz converted as the All Whites recovered from a horror start in which they conceded an early 2nd minute goal with Mark Paston wrong-footed by a swerving Jordanian free kick.
Just on halftime Fallon climbed high to nod the All Whites into the lead despite losing Ivan Vicelich to a red card minutes earlier, while Smeltz continued his rich vein of scoring form with his second goal, a clinical volley on the turn from seven yards after incisive play from Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos down the left hand flank.
The win was a timely boost for New Zealand ahead of a World Cup playoff in October and November, with their Asian opposition now confirmed as Bahrain after a seesawing second leg of the Asian zone playoff against Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis looked to have clinched victory by scoring their second goal in the first minute of injury time but Bahrain equalised from the restart to seal a 2-2 draw on the night and progress on the away goals rule after a goalless first leg in Manama.
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert said the win in Amman bodes well for a trip to Manama’s National Stadium on October 10.
“They’re a good side, Jordan, and when you look at the World Cup qualification groups that they’ve been in, they’ve certainly been a difficult side for most countries to beat, so we take a lot of positives.
“It’s one step forward but we face a few more yet but we look forward to the away leg against Bahrain with some certainty now.”
New Zealand looked to be up against it when Ivan Vicelich pushed a ball with his hand into the path of debutant Michael McGlinchey in the 43rd minute.
The Syrian referee correctly picked up the intentional handball but the Vicelich could still feel aggrieved at the severity of the punishment for what is normally a yellow card offence.
The Auckland City captain would still be available for both playoff matches against Bahrain and will instead miss the next friendly match the All Whites play.
The red card forced Herbert into the tactical move of replacing wide midfielder McGlinchey with fullback Aaron Scott to restore a full back line at halftime.
The All Whites boss was left frustrated the dismissal prevented him trying different combinations in the second half but paid tribute to the reaction of his reduced side.
“At the end of the day if we come up against Bahrain away and we get a player sent, it’s been a good lesson for us.
“To score three goals, two of them with 10 men on the park, and get a result like that speaks volumes. There’s a hell of a lot of character in this side and we step forward to the big challenge in a positive way.”
“We can plan accordingly for what is something we have all waited for the last four years"
The All Whites endured some testing times in the dying stages of the match as a resurgent Jordan began to stretch a tired New Zealand defence, but Paston made amends for his early misjudgement with a pair of sharp saves, including one off his face due more to sound positioning rather than sharp reflexes.
After a testing away leg at Bahrain’s National Stadium in Manama on October 10, the All Whites host the decisive home leg at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium at 8pm on November 14, with the winner qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Tickets for the Wellington match are available from http://www.oneshotforglory.co.nz/ or via 0800 TICKETEK (842538).
New Zealand 3 (Shane Smeltz 17-pen, 65; Rory Fallon 45) Jordan 1 (2’)
King Abdullah Stadium, Amman
September 9, 2009
New Zealand: Mark PASTON (GK), Ben SIGMUND, Ivan VICELICH, Ryan NELSEN (Captain), Tony LOCHHEAD, Michael MCGLINCHEY (Aaron SCOTT 46), Tim BROWN, Simon ELLIOTT (Andrew BOYENS 90+5), Leo BERTOS (David MULLIGAN 76), Shane SMELTZ, Rory FALLON (Andy BARRON 79).
Substitutes not used: Jimmy BANNATYNE (RGK).
Cautions: Leo Bertos
Red Card: Ivan Vicelich
2010 FIFA World Cup Asia/Oceania Playoff
Bahrain v New Zealand
October 10, kick-off tbc
National Stadium, Manama