All Whites impress but fall to Australian thunderbolt
Chris Wood looks to connect with a free kick against Australia. Photo / photosport.nz
By Michael Burgess in Brisbane
Socceroos 1All Whites 0
So near – yet so far - for the All Whites.
The New Zealand side produced an impressive display on Thursday night against the Socceroos, but fell 1-0 to the home side in an enthralling contest.
The match had echoes of the Costa Rica playoff in Doha in June, where the All Whites' quality and output wasn't completely reflected on the scoreboard.
Despite being $5.50 underdogs at the Australian TAB, Danny Hay's men more than matched their highly vaunted opposition.
A thunderbolt strike from Socceroos winger Awer Mabil in the 32nd minute proved the difference, after a counter attack from the home side.
After waiting so long for a trans-Tasman contest, this was a beauty, in front of 25,392 fans at Suncorp Stadium.
There were numerous chances to both sides, with Andre de Jong missing the best for New Zealand, while Oli Sail tipped a late Mathew Leckie effort onto the post.
Given the circumstances, it was a promising effort from the All Whites, which bodes well for Eden Park this Sunday, when they are likely to throw the kitchen sink at the Socceroos with their strongest XI.Related articles
It was difficult to nominate a standout for New Zealand, though Libby Cacace, Matt Garbett and Eli Just were particularly prominent, while Michael Boxall was superb in a rare start.
The only negative to the match was an overtly physical approach by the Socceroos – mostly unpunished by the Japanese referee – with Cacace, Garbett and Just targeted by some cynical challenges.
The All Whites had a challenging build-up, with players arriving late in camp from across the globe. That necessitated some different selections, with regulars Alex Greive, Marko Stamenic and Bill Tuiloma benched, while Winston Reid was rested for his farewell match at Eden Park, to mitigate the risk of an untimely knock.
Hay opted for a back three of Tim Payne, Boxall and Nando Pijnaker, with Dane Ingham and Cacace on the flanks. De Jong, Joe Bell, Garbett and Just were the midfield quartet, with Chris Wood leading the line.
There were six starters from the Costa Rica clash in June, while Australia were a near full strength line up, with most of the XI who were so pivotal in the qualifying playoff against Peru in Doha.
The All Whites made a bright start, with Payne testing the keeper from 20 metres in the second minute, after bursting forward following a timely interception.
The visitors were quickly into their rhythm and should have opened the scoring in the 10th minute, with de Jong wasting a golden chance. The South African-based forward pushed his shot wide of the near post, after winning the race to a Wood flick on, following a Sail clearance.
It was a costly moment, though in his defence de Jong had only stepped off a plane barely 48 hours before.
Payne and Garbett had attempts on target, while Cacace produced a wonderful turn in the area, but his driven right-footed shot was deflected wide.
The Socceroos had good opportunities too, with Jackson Irvine prodding wide from eight yards, after the All Whites failed to clear a corner, while left winger Mabil flashed a shot just wide after the All Whites had surrendered possession.
The pacy Cadiz winger looked dangerous throughout and produced the pivotal goal in the 32nd minute. It was a wonderful 20-metre strike, just inside Sail's near post, after Bell had lost possession near halfway. It was tough on Bell, who enjoyed a productive first half, contributing to the neat triangles produced by Hay's team.
The All Whites pushed for a response and had plenty of ball in the final third but crosses just failed to find their mark. Garbett connected well from long range but straight at the keeper, while Wood was tackled well by Trent Sainsbury as he lurked on the edge of the area.
New Zealand were again impressive early in the second half, with plenty of penetrating football, but they lacked quality on the final cross. A Bell piledriver, after a neat de Jong lay off, was unfortunately straight at the keeper, while Cacace stumbled after a long burst into Australian territory.
Stamenic (Bell) and Waine (Just) were introduced in the 65th minute, with Cameron Howieson (Garbett), Deklan Wynne (Cacace) and Callum McCowatt (Wood) brought on five minute later.
McCowatt was denied by a brilliant tackle in the six-yard box – after a searching Waine cross – while a Garbett free kick was just too high. Sail produced an brilliant save to push a Leckie effort onto the post in the 85th minute, after a rapid counter attack, which proved to be the final chance to either team.
Australia 1 (Awer Mabil 32')All Whites 0Halftime 1-0