March 22, 2013
DUNEDIN – The All Whites are just 180 minutes away from representing Oceania at successive FIFA World Cups but were made to battle for over 90 minutes against a New Caledonia side that refused to play the role of happy-go-lucky underdog.
New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said the intense tussle was everything he expected from the New Caledonians.
"This team was only three points behind us. They've been resolute throughout the campaign, scored a lot of goals and I said before the game I thought they were going to be very tough for us. The have the ability to punish you."
New Zealand captain Winston Reid echoed his coach's thoughts.
"To be fair, New Caledonia played well, but like Ricki said, we have a young team and we’re trying to build for the future."
"We've got a lot of talent on the park but sometimes it doesn't come out on the day and today is one of those days. I think we showed character. Even though things weren’t going our way we dug in," said Reid.
Cesar Lolohea's 56th minute strike – cancelled out Chris Killen's powerful 10th minute headed opener.
New Zealand rode their luck but cursed it at times with both Smith (twice) and Chris Wood denied by the woodwork, while New Caledonian 'keeper Rocky Nyikeine was inspired in goal to keep the visitors in touch.
The All Whites had a strong claim for a penalty turned down as regular time expired, when Shane Smeltz emerged bloodied from an attempt to head in a winner after coming off second best to a raised boot.
But with the crowd growing increasingly nervous, new captain Winston Reid headed a Kosta Barbarouses free kick back towards goal for Smith to create a moment of magic.
"It's definitely my best feeling in an All Whites shirt. It’s always a great feeling great to score the winning goal especially in the dying seconds of the game,” said the All Whites vice captain.
The All Whites will now contemplate changes to their squad for the dead rubber match with the Solomon Islands in Honiara on Tuesday (5pm NZT).
Looking ahead, November brings the home-and-away playoff with an as yet unknown CONCACAF opponent.
Action continues tomorrow with top-of-the-table Honduras hosting continental heavyweight Mexico, Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz facing Panama, and Costa Rica travelling to the USA.
FIFA World Cup 2014 Qualifiers Stage 3
Match Day 5
At Forsyth Barr Stadium
Dunedin, New Zealand
New Zealand 2 (Chris KILLEN 10’, Tommy SMITH 90+4’)
New Caledonia 1 (Cesar LOLOHEA 56’)
New Zealand: 1-Mark PASTON (gk), 2-Winston REID (captain), 5-Tommy SMITH, 7-Leo BERTOS, 8-Michael MCGLINCHEY, 9-Shane SMELTZ (14-Ian HOGG 90’+2), 10-Chris KILLEN (18-Tim PAYNE 75’), 11-Marco ROJAS, 15-Ivan VICELICH, 16-Jeremy BROCKIE (17-Kosta BARBAROUSES 80’), 20-Chris WOOD
Substitutes: 12-Jacob SPOONLEY (rgk), 13-Dan KEAT
Suspended: 4-Ben SIGMUND
Coach: Ricki HERBERT (NZL)