1-0 (16) Oscar Crino
2-0 (42) Graham Arnold
3-0 (55) Graham Arnold
4-1 (79) Charlie Yankos (pen.)
3-1 (70) Malcolm Dunford
It was time for gameweek 2 in the OFC zone of the Italia ’90 qualification, and with Israel securing a precious win in their home tie against New Zealand on the opening day, today’s visitors in their old foes Australia’s territory could ill afford to drop points, let alone lose. Surely, they were intending to make this a three-horse race, although the Australians, too, knew the significance of obtaining maximum points from their home fixtures in what would surely prove to be a very tight group.
Team news Australia
While the Australians had, as expected, successfully negotiated their pair of first round matches against lowly Fiji, they were obviously realizing that New Zealand would prove much sterner opposition. However, they would still not have available to them their Belgium based star forwards Eddie Krnčević (Anderlecht) and Frank Farina (Club Brugge). While the former had been in action the Saturday prior to this fixture (Anderlecht-Lokeren 5-1, Krnčević had notched their fourth goal, his 18th league goal of the campaign in 23 matches), Farina had been suspended (accumulation of yellow cards) for Club Brugge’s 5-1 reverse away to Sint-Truiden. Australia would have to make do with a squad consisting almost entirely by players from the domestic league scene, with the exception of natural born captain Charlie Yankos, who had only flown home from Greece, where he was plying his daily trade with Thessaloniki club PAOK.
It is true we had not had available to us their full match-day squads over the two Fiji ties, so their total of six unused substitutes over those games remain unknown. At least five players who had not featured in any of those two first round matches, would get game time on this occasion. Whether or not any of the five were among the unused substitutes for one or both of the Fiji matches, remains a mystery. They were: Steve Calderan, Wally Šavor, Paul Wade, Robbie Slater and young libero Andrew Koczka.
While the young Scott Ollerenshaw had looked to have something of a ‘free’ role at times via the clips we’d assessed from the home tie against the Fijians, it had probably been fair to judge Australia in a 3-5-2 formation then. Coach Gary Cole had revealed exclusively to us that (Yugoslav born) manager Frank Arok had worked hard on implementing a three-man central defensive unit with a libero, so we’d probably be seeing something similar on this occasion.
Team news New Zealand
Winning their first round tie against Chinese Taipei 8-1 on aggregate probably didn’t say so much about New Zealand as it did about their opponents back then in December last year. This was a totally different ball game. They had gone down to that early strike in Israel, but had probably deserved to lose by an even greater margin. In order to stake a claim for that top spot in this qualification group, they would need to get a result here in Sydney. They could do so well with a repeat outcome from eight years earlier, when a 2-0 win had set them well on their way to winning the first qualification round, and ultimately going through to the 1982 World Cup in Spain.
The expectancy which had arrived with the return of ’82 manager John Adshead just prior to the start of the qualification had received a blow in Tel Aviv seven days earlier, but going to Israel had been unknown territory. This was close to home, and they probably wouldn’t feel intimidated in the same manner in Sydney as they had last week.
With no full-game footage available from New Zealand’s opening day defeat, it had been impossible to say what formation they had lined up in the previous Sunday. On this occasion, they would not, alas, have star man Wynton Rufer available, as he had returned to his Swiss club Grasshoppers, where he would play the full 90 minutes of their first spring season league match the following Saturday (a 2-0 away loss to Wettingen). Rufer had been brilliant in the second of those two Chinese Taipei qualifiers, when he’d returned back home having just scored a hat-trick in the Swiss league.
Another player missing was big defender Garry Lund. According to reports, he’d not always looked too comfortable against the quick Chinese Taipei forwards, and he’d even suffered the humiliation of registering an own goal. Lund had reported sick on the morning of this game. Would he have started if he’d been available? Perhaps. He had at least lined up among the other substitutes pre-match.
The man in the middle was 41 year old Japanese citizen Shizuo Takada, a sports store manager. He had made his international bow during the previous World Cup qualification, when he’d refereed in a 2-0 home win for North Korea against Malaysia in May ’85.
Takada had received the great honour of being called up for the 1986 World Cup, where he was in charge of one game, namely the group stage tie between Spain and Algeria (3-0). He had subsequently also run the rule over an Olympic Games qualifier, which had indeed been New Zealand’s 1-0 (in Australia) over Chinese Taipei a year earlier. He had even been selected for the 1988 Olympic tournament proper, where his one game had been the group stage clash between Italy and Guatamala (5-2).
Four of the players who had featured for the Kiwis during that 1-0 Olympic Games qualifying win the previous year were still present in the current squad: goalkeeper Clint Gosling, defender Ricki Herbert, midfielder Danny Halligan, as well as forward Noel Barkley (born in Northern Ireland).
This was the fifth successive World Cup qualification campaign in which the two near neighbours had crossed paths. During that time, both had made it through to the global event on one occasion each: Australia for the 1974 tournament in West Germany, and New Zealand for the 1982 competition in Spain. Across their eight qualifiers prior to today’s, a total of five matches had ended in draw. Australia had won twice, in ’77 and ’85, both at home, while the Kiwis had famously defeated today’s hosts 2-0 in Sydney on their way to qualifying for the championships in Spain.
Altogether, the two countries had met 43 times in official matches (most of which had been friendlies), and the record read 24-9-10 in favour of the Socceroos. Their most recent encounters had come in October last year, when Australia had won both Tasman Cup fixtures, 2-1 in Dunedin (NZ) and 2-0 at home in Bendigo. Unsurprisingly, several players who had featured then, remained in the two respective squads for today’s important World Cup qualifier.
Sydney Football Stadium had opened only last year, as until then, the city had not had a stadium entirely suited for major footballing occasions. They had played at the oval-shaped Sydney Sports Ground, while this new stadium had been built purposefully for football and the two major rugby variants union and league. Its original capacity was just over 41,000, but even if today’s visitors were old rivals New Zealand, nowhere near a capacity crowd was being expected.
|1 Jeff Olver||28||Melbourne Croatia|
|2 Wally Šavor||29||Sydney Croatia|
|3 Alan Davidson||28||Melbourne Croatia|
|4 Charlie Yankos (c)||sub 86′||27||PAOK Thessaloniki|
|5 Steve Calderan||25||Marconi|
|6 Paul Wade||26||South Melbourne|
|7 Warren Spink||sub 64′||22||Preston Makedonia|
|8 Mike Petersen||23||South Melbourne|
|9 Graham Arnold||25||Sydney Croatia|
|10 Oscar Crino||26||Footscray JUST|
|11 Scott Ollerenshaw||21||St George|
|12 Andy Koczka||on 86′||23||St George|
|x Graham Jennings||29||Sydney Croatia|
|15 Robbie Slater||on 64′||24||Sydney Croatia|
New Zealand (4-4-2)
|1 Clint Gosling||28||Sydney Olympic|
|3 Malcolm Dunford||26||Wellington United|
|6 Ricki Herbert (c)||27||Mount Wellington|
|7 Tony Levy||28||Mount Wellington|
|9 Darren McClennan||74′||23||Mount Wellington|
|10 Noel Barkley||28||Mount Wellington|
|11 Danny Halligan||sub 41′||24||Christchurch United|
|13 Chris Riley||24||North Shore United|
|15 Dave Witteveen||30′, sub 80′||25||Mount Wellington|
|17 Ceri Evans||25||Oxford United|
|18 Tommy Mason||28||Mount Wellington|
|8 Nigel Debenham||on 41′||29||Mount Wellington|
|12 Rodger Gray||on 80′||22||Mount Wellington|
We’re learning that it is a particularly hot and humid afternoon in Sydney, as the two teams are preparing for kick-off in what is quite a crucial World Cup qualifier. New Zealand cannot afford another loss if they’re to still be in with a shout, while nothing but a win would be a major blow to Australia’s chances. They’re lining up to the right, kicking towards the left as the cameras are looking, and it is the hosts who have been awarded the kick-off, wearing their traditional colours of canary yellow and green. To get the ball rolling are forwards Graham Arnold and Warren Spink.
While there’s an attempt goalwards by the visitors as early as a minute and 45 seconds in, when forward Noel Barkley connects to a miscued Dave Witteveen shot with a side-footed attempt that goes wide of the upright, there’s otherwise precious little to report from the opening exchanges. Both teams appear wary, and have scant interest to reveal any information to the opposition; they keep their cards close to the chest. Thus, there’s plenty of interpassing, and the pace’s low, with intensity likewise.
There are a few signs that the Australians are beginning to settle, probably as they’re shaking off those early stage nerves, and some of their more expressive players are starting to look for possession. Midfielder Oscar Crino had shown plenty of times at national team level what an asset he was to the team, and from his central midfield position, he would typically be the player they’d look for to make things happen. Crino had delicate close control, he could spot movement ahead of him, and he had a tasty range of passing in his locker. He was more prone to breaking forward on the ball rather than making penetrative runs off it, and as the clock was ticking beyond the ten minute mark, Crino was clearly looking increasingly comfortable. This was a good sign for the hosts.
As for the visitors, well, that early opportunity apart, they had done little other than trying to harry their opponents into making mistakes, and another important aspect to their tactics was clearly how they did not wish to relinquish any pockets of space inside their final third of the pitch. While they did not seem to have designated a man to mark Crino out of the game, their defenders were dutifully looking to engage with the Australian forwards. The absence of the strapping Garry Lund might have been felt, though his replacement Malcolm Dunford was hardly lacking in experience. He was now accompanying Oxford university student Ceri Evans at the heart of their defence. An important task for the latter was trying to stifle striker Graham Arnold, who with his nous and strength was someone New Zealand could not allow much room.
Australia express dominance
The hosts were indeed beginning to move the ball about with more purpose, and they were starting to pin the visiting Kiwis back inside their own half of the pitch. They were also seeing more runs off the ball, providing the midfielders and even defenders with further passing options, and the Australians were looking to make use of the channels. Playing with three men up front, their lay-out was ‘the large one through the middle and the two little ones around him’, though that was not always a fixed set. Centre-forward Arnold was certainly not foreign to making runs into the channels, and accepting a pass over the head of Ricki Herbert on 15 minutes, he delicately flicked the ball into Alan Davidson’s path with his heel. The latter in turn set up a headed opportunity at the near post for Warren Spink, albeit the wily forward never got over the ball properly. Two minutes earlier, Witteveen’s last gasp intervention had prevented the same Spink’s low attempt from inside the area in reaching the target after a miss by Dunford.
That the home side were superior was by now beyond doubt. The New Zealanders looked sluggish, and passes would at times go astray. Graham Arnold did a terrific job in side-stepping Dunford midway inside the opposition’s half to release the nippy Scott Ollerenshaw with a protruding pass. The little forward darted into the box, and though Evans managed to thwart his original attempt, the ball came back to Ollerenshaw, who squared it across to Crino on the fringe of the area. Despite having a few players between him and the New Zealand goal, including goalkeeper Clint Gosling, Crino struck the ball wisely low into the same corner from which Gosling was moving away. The elegant midfield playmaker found the back of the net, and the hosts were ahead.
A dip into the visiting select
New Zealand had been exposed on three occasions in the last few minutes, so while suffering a goal against was always going to be a possible consequence from failing to remain tight, the visitors must have felt a little worried at how quickly this difference between the teams had developed.
The visitors were working in a 4-4-2 formation, and behind the four man defensive line was Australia based goalkeeper Gosling. The 28 year old Sydney Olympic man had struggled of late for the number 1 jersey at club level, but he still remained manager John Adshead’s first pick for his country. He would need to produce his best form to fend off the challenge from the up and coming Peter Kuiper, yet another member of the Mount Wellington contingent.
At first, it had appeared as if the All Whites were appearing with a three man defensive unit, though it was fair to add now England based Ceri Evans to that equation. The rugged 25 year old had moved to the UK in order to study psychology at the world famous Oxford university, and he was even playing football with the city’s United club in the English second division. Evans was a very robust defender, who would push forward a little when the Kiwis were in possession, though let there be no doubt that he was in fact Malcolm Dunford’s central defensive partner. The latter was rich in experience, but was perhaps one of the players who most personified the earlier mentioned sluggishness in the visiting side. It had been his error which had let Spink in for his effort which Witteveen had managed to divert away for a corner kick.
Dunford, while not justifying a libero tag, would operate slightly behind Evans, and he would at times play direct passes from the back using his left foot. To the 26 year old’s left, consequently more a left-back than a left-sided centre-half, was another England based player in Thomas Mason. He was playing non-league football with Farnborough, and this was at the time in the sixth tier of the pyramid. Manager Adshead had previously said about Mason that he was probably the player with the most natural left foot in the country. A 28 year old, he would also at times push forward.
One player who had previously been in a winning side in Australia during a World Cup qualifier, was right-back and captain Ricki Herbert. Still only 27, the Mount Wellington defender had at first glance appeared to be part of a central defensive trio, working to the right of Dunford, but it would in fact be revealed that his position was one of right-back. That four man defensive quartet was a rather narrow one, most likely due to the fact that the hosts were not working with outright wingers. Herbert had been part of the New Zealand team which had triumphed 2-0 away to Australia in qualification for the 1982 World Cup.
In midfield, the Kiwis had Tony Levy working as an outright wide man along the right flank. Quite tall for a winger, he was rather fleet-footed, and loved taking a man on, although he would also need to provide some defensive cover for Herbert, as Davidson would push forward from his side. Levy was also a fine crosser of the ball, and would often add some sverve behind his driven right wing balls into the area.
For the two roles in the centre of the pitch, New Zealand had Chris Riley as the steading influence, with the flame haired Danny Halligan operating box to box. Riley, also the corner taker, was typically sitting in the centre circle when his team were crossing the halfway line, and he would distribute both to the right and to the left from his central position. He did not appear to have neither an abundance of pace nor a very robust physique, but Adshead still considered him quite vital to the team. As for Halligan, his ability to make runs off the ball made him a rare breed in this side, and he would usually be the more attacking member of their midfield band.
To the left in New Zealand’s midfield was Dave Witteveen, a 25 year old, also of Adshead’s (Auckland based!) team Mount Wellington. While clearly left footed, he would not be hugging the touchline, but rather offer his assistance in field, allowing for Mason from behind him to venture forward when the opportunity arose. Witteveen also aptly assisted inside his own half, and had already denied Spink that recent opportunity through a last moment intervention. He seemed more limited when operating inside the opposition’s half, though, even if he played with some enthusiasm.
Speaking of limited: That appeared to be the case, too, with centre-forward Darren McClennan. Until notching four goals across the two preliminary qualifiers against Chinese Taipei last December, he had failed to register at national team level. He seemed quite modest in pretty much everything he did, and it was difficult to point out precisely what his main assets were. Aerial play, maybe? He still didn’t have sufficient quality in the air to pose a threat to the Australians, at least not hitherto. He also attemped to hold the ball up and bring others into play, with pretty much mixed fortunes.
A more flexible, dynamic forward was Noel Barkley. Born in Northern Ireland, the moustached 28 year old was one of five starters from Mount Wellington. It would appear as if he begun the game in something of a left-sided attacking capacity, though he would clearly move about as if to demonstrate how he was not tied down to just one position. He was someone more difficult to mark than his forward partner thanks to his desire to take up different positions, though there had been little evidence as yet of an end product.
The Australians we, as in our website, have had some experience with already. In the return leg in the first round double-header against Fiji, we had seen them line up in a 3-5-2 formation. There had, however, been deviations during the course of the game, with the lively Scott Ollerenshaw taking up various attacking positions, although it had seemed fair to pinpoint him to a left-sided attacking midfield berth originally.
On this occasion, though, there was little doubt regarding their formation as a 3-4-3. Once again, they had the reliable Jeff Olver between the sticks, and directly in front of the 28 year old of Melbourne Croatia stalwart sat skipper Charlie Yankos, the team’s dominating figure. Yankos had missed out on the two friendly wins against Swedish champions Malmö the previous month, but he’d flown back home for this their first from four group stage ties. The 27 year old, now in Greece with Thessaloniki side PAOK, had netted twice during that 5-1 rout against Fiji, where the first had been a sensational strike from way out. Not that this was something unique to the strong defensive leader, as he’d done similarly during the 4-1 thrashing of Argentina in the 1988 Bicentennial Cup. In additition to organizing the defence, Yankos would also be the one to aim it long from the back, something which he also did well.
The other two players in that three man central defensive unit were Wally Šavor, a 29 year old of Yugoslav (Croatian) heritage, currently plying his trade at Sydney Croatia, and 25 year old Steve Calderan of reigning domestic champions Marconi, another Sydney club. Šavor worked to Yankos’ advanced right, but would also track Barkley whenever the New Zealand forward ventured across the pitch, while Calderan’s original position was as the left-sided centre-half. Quite robust, the latter would typically stick to McClennan.
In midfield, Australia’s four men included central pair Mike Petersen and Oscar Crino. While the latter had already introduced himself, not least through his delicately taken goal, Petersen, who had played during the 1-0 loss in Fiji, though not appeared in the return leg, was a 23 year old who belonged to the South Melbourne club. He was a combative player with plenty of energy and tenacity in his game, and he would surely not be offended by being branded a ‘workhorse’. Allowing Crino space to dictate and even shuttle forward, Petersen would remain as the balancing option in the centre of the pitch. The pair seemed to complement each other well.
A team mate of Petersen’s at club level was the returning Paul Wade. 26 years of age, Wade had not featured in either of the two Fiji matches. He was Australia’s wide right man for this tie, and one thing which you notice fairly quickly about Wade is his aerial strength. While he doesn’t appear to be a particularly tall player, he’s equipped with a fine jump, and it would happen on several occasions during the first half that a cross in his direction found its way from the opposite channel. Speaking of club camaraderie, Wade and Petersen did seem to have a particularly fine bond between themselves on the pitch.
As the left-sided option in midfield, manager Frank Arok had fielded the versatile Alan Davidson. Now 28 years old and of Melbourne Croatia, Davidson, too, like Herbert of the opposition, had played during that 2-0 win for the Kiwis back in ’81. He had featured to the right in their 3-5-2 formation in Newcastle when Fiji had been the opponents, but he seemed equally adapt in this position cross field. Davidson would enjoy many a tussle with the industrious Levy, and he would often come out on top. With a wealth of international experience, Davidson was one of the first names down on Arok’s team sheet. He also provided plenty of defensive cover for Calderan behind and inside him.
As the triumvirate up top, the management had once again gone with the steely Graham Arnold for the centre-forward role. Clearly relieved to score against the Fijians, his first in a number of matches in the Australia jersey, Arnold had plenty of assets to his game. While he was a big handful to any central defender, his expertise in holding the ball up and bringing others into play was just one side of his game; he was also clever in his movement, often operating along the channels. From the left hand channel, he would time and again look to bring Wade into play with a cross field ball. You would also need to be alert against him whenever there was an attacking set-play for the hosts to defend against.
Around Arnold, the hosts had two speedy, lively players in Warren Spink and Scott Ollerenshaw. The former had given evidence of his finishing ability when he’d notched their second in the 5-1 win over Fiji, and he was often looking to threaten the space in behind the enemy’s lines. Making sound use of the channels, his expertise was working the blindside of the defenders, and with his pace, he would often make life difficult for the opposition. Ollerenshaw was possibly a more typical winger, though he’d been drafted into a more central role on this occasion, and would even double up with Spink towards the right. Equipped with a fine left foot for distribution, he would be their designated corner taker from the right, and he was also an asset when transporting at speed and in taking a man on.
Can the visitors find a way back?
In the wake of the goal, which certainly was a low point for the New Zealanders and their hopes of World Cup qualification, there’s few signs of an immediate response from the All Whites. They had been struggling to fend off the hosts even in the minutes leading up to Crino’s strike, and once behind, it is not as if they have a masterplan to claw their way back into the game. On 19 minutes, a long free-kick from Herbert at the back finds the head of left-back Mason, of all people, halfway inside the hosts’ half, and while his flicked header onwards reaches Halligan, the action midfielder can’t get his lobbed goal attempt on target; it drifts well wide to the left of Olver’s goal frame. Despite this being nowhere near a threat on the Australian goal, it is still about as good as it gets for the visitors in the opening half hour. They probe, but do not possess the necessary quality to ask questions.
Australia, on the other hand, appear to feel reassured by their goal, which would’ve settled some of their nerves. While they’re no strangers to hitting it long from the back, predominantly through the means of captain Yankos’ right boot, this is not their first choice in attacking options. Sure, a few of their players probably have workrate outshining their creative skills, but there’s still Crino and the lively Davidson in midfield, and there’s almost a breakthrough just after Halligan’s attempt, when Crino attempts to thread his left-sided midfielder through to the left in the area, only for Levy to make an interception and divert the ball away for a left wing corner.
Just about halfway through the first 45, there’s worrying signs when Davidson appears to have taken a blow to his head after colliding with Levy. It hadn’t looked particularly severe initially, but upon trying to resume, the competitive wide midfielder looks dazed, and is in need of some encouragement from the magic sponge. A couple of minutes earlier, even the visitors’ Halligan had demanded some attention from the medical staff, when a challenge had left him with blood trickling down his face as he was about to defend a left wing Australia corner. He, too, had been mopped up, and both players were eventually good to continue.
The game remains a low-key affair with few moments of true intensity, and Australia appear almost as if they’re content with what they’ve got. They fail to bring their two wide forwards into play, and even Arnold is yet unable to muster much, despite his efforts of trying to pull the New Zealand stoppers wide and into the channels. There’s a few attempts at crossing from the left towards Wade along the right, but with movement around the right-sided midfielder hardly premium, this also fails to produce the goods.
On the half hour, there’s a first booking of the game when visiting midfielder Witteveen arrives late in a challenge on Wade some ten yards inside the New Zealand half. The away midfielder catches Australia’s number 6 on the back of his heels, and while it appeared to be more clumsiness than something of mal intent, the referee had every right to bring out the yellow card.
Visitors check on Olver
Having had little to cheer so far, the Kiwis went on to produce a couple of moments with the half ticking towards 35 minutes. Firstly, Barkley had done well to get hold of a stray Levy cross from the right down by the left wing corner flag, and when he found Witteveen around the left corner of the penalty area, the midfielder sidestepped Petersen’s tackle before unleashing an effort at goal. Olver had it covered, but he seemed to fumble as the ball bounced off the ground in front of him, only for the ‘keeper to claim it at the second time of asking.
The subsequent effort was when Witteveen picked up a poor Calderon pass. The defender, momentarily across from his original left, had transported out of his own half, and so had left the right hand side exposed behind him. Witteveen proceeded to send McClennan through, and the striker cleverly turned Yankos, before racing through towards goal, shooting from inside the area to the left. Olver was on hand to palm it away, but only up and under, really, where Šavor had sensed the danger and was alert to head it over his own crossbar ahead of the onrushing Barkley. Easily New Zealand’s best opportunity yet. Were they finally coming good, or were these couple of moments just a false dawn?
More the latter, by the look of things. New Zealand did not manage to sustain their increased level of performance, but rather fell back into their previous paths of struggling to contain the hosts. Not that quality was in abundance from the yellow-shirted home side, as the overall impression left plenty to be desired at this stage. Misplaced passes from the back remained an unimpressive feature, with Calderan probably the chief culprit, but they still managed a couple of efforts into the side netting, through Davidson’s right-footed shot from the left inside the area, and Spink’s quick pounce from a tight angle around the right edge of the six yard area. Neither duly worried the Australia based New Zealand custodian.
On 41 minutes, we have the first substitution of the afternoon. We’d earlier spotted New Zealand’s energetic midfield man Halligan with some blood on his face when attending to the near post from an Australia left wing corner. However, that would not appear to have anything to do with him being replaced by yet another Mount Wellington player in the moustached 29 year old that was Nigel Debenham. Halligan, who was very much a typical box to box man, and who had probably looked one of their better performers so far, seemed to be limping as he went off. Debenham would take over in central midfield for the remaining few first half minutes, working to Riley’s right.
Australia increase their lead
A minute and a half after Halligan’s exit, the Kiwis have conceded a disastrous second goal. And while conceding in itself was bad enough, the manner in which it happened was really pitiful. They looked to have won back possession just outside their own penalty area, only for Witteveen to fail in controlling a simple pass. Instead, it went to the ever-alert Petersen, Australia’s very much two-footed central midfield player, who capitalized and swung across a ball towards the far end of the six yard area with his right. Petersen had spotted Arnold, who brought the ball down with a deft touch from his right foot, easily turned his marker Evans, whose challenge never really looked on, and then placed a shot high into the back of the net behind the hapless Gosling for 2-0. Clinical, confident finish by the hardworking striker.
The teams appear to be going through the motions through to the half-time whistle, although the home side manage to carve out another opportunity for themselves following a crossfield Crino free-kick into the path of Wade, who is only blocked last ditch by Witteveen before he can shape to shoot from inside the area. Australia are pleased with a two goal advantage at the halfway stage, thus overtaking Israel on goal difference in the group standings, while New Zealand must be realizing how their qualification campaign by now is an uphill battle.
Half-time: 2-0. It is a lead very well deserved.
The visitors had 45 minutes to produce something extraordinary in order to save their qualification campaign, although based on impressions from the first half, they were beyond repair. However, they would need to give it their best shot, also because suffering a big defeat at the hands of their traditional rivals would not go down well with the Kiwi footballing community. New Zealand brought the second half to life through their pair of strikers McClennan and Barkley, and there were no changes in personnel at either end.
Opening moments of the second period
Play goes from one end to the other early in the second half, as the visitors seek to find that elusive spark which can rescue their campaign. However, it is the hosts who continue to shift the ball around their team with greater conviction. Not that they’re asking early questions, except for a left-footed Wade shot from 25 yards out which goes straight at Gosling, but their superior quality is there for everyone to see. At the other end, Olver had failed to hold on to a right wing Riley corner, and Barkley had pounced on the loose ball only to fire it over the bar, though the whistle had gone anyway, as Dunford had obstructed the ‘keeper.
The All Whites have made a tactical switch for the start of the second half, with late first half substitute Debenham stepping out into the wide left midfield role. He’d originally slotted into one of the two central positions, though had now shifted out towards the flank, with the more powerfully built Witteveen switching from the left hand side and into the centre. The latter, despite a couple of blips inside his own half, had looked one of New Zealand’s better players when they were coming forward, and having lost the injured Halligan’s runs from the deep, they were surely looking to utilize Witteveen’s ability inside the opposition’s half as best they could.
For the home side, their two ‘wide’ forwards Spink and Ollerenshaw had not yet truly ignited, as they had been relatively well attended to by the New Zealand defence, with full-backs Herbert and Mason doing their bit to keep them under tabs. Could the hosts make use of their pace, and so further stretch that visiting defence, which still at times had been quite vulnerable? So far, it had particularly been in midfield where the home side had run the show, with both Crino and Petersen bossing the central areas, and also Wade and Davidson offering some attacking threat from the two wide positions. Davidson had been the more efficient along the ground, while Wade, despite not being the tallest, had a fine aerial presence about him.
The Socceroos improve their goal difference
Just as the clock is about to reach the 10 minute mark in the second half, Australia make sure to definitely end the game as a contest, and so also to quench any lingering thoughts the Kiwis might have had for a comeback. While the second goal had been bad enough to give away in the fashion which they did, New Zealand once again hand their hosts a major opportunity. Spink has come deep to pick up a short Petersen pass, and he’d orientated himself prior to receiving the ball, and having spotted Wade’s run down the right, the little forward played a pass towards the flank. It only reached Debenham, though, who was offering a fine recovery run. However, the New Zealand substitute then disastrously gave the ball away as he completely failed in reaching his goalkeeper with a backpass. Wade gleefully accepted, looked up and played a short pass for Arnold, who could not hit it first time, but with Dunford committed, the striker still managed to hit the back of the net from almost a sitting position for surely an unassailable 3-0 lead.
No changes in fortune for the New Zealanders
The game is turning into a stroll for the hosts, who face little resistance from a very disappointing and, by now, despondent New Zealand side. The visitors surrender vast areas of space which the Australians are invited to make use of, and what structure there was through their team earlier appears to have evaporated in the Sydney heat. Despite a low Witteveen effort on goal after 58 minutes, it is the home side which are behind the major openings, and the ease with which they arrive at their opportunities must be alarming from a Kiwi point of view. When flicked through by Arnold on the hour, Ollerenshaw has a free passage towards goal along the left hand channel, though rather than return his main striker the ball, the nippy wide forward goes for glory himself. Gosling deals with his shot.
One player who had perhaps not quite managed to live up to expectations on the day, was Warren Spink. The quick Preston Makedonia forward had been building up a nice reputation after some of his performances for the Socceroos, but he’d struggled to make an impact against the All Whites. Just after 63 minutes, Spink is replaced by 24 year old Sydney Croatia’s energetic Robbie Slater, who comes on to earn his sixth cap. As commentator Les Murray points out: “He is someone who ought to be a regular in the view of many.”
With his dyed hair, the direct-running Slater has arrived to continue in much the same role which Spink had held up until the time of his departure. While the substitute was probably originally meant to feature as a wide right forward, there was no apparent rigidity to the Australians’ order of appearance. As had been evident during the first period, the pair of support forwards around main man Arnold could well double up along one side, and they would when both Slater and Ollerenshaw were seen towards the left not long after the Sydney based livewire had arrived. This added to the hosts’ unpredictability. Then, on 66 minutes, Crino set up another opportunity for Arnold, but the striker didn’t hit the ball cleanly with his left foot from inside the area, and the chance to earn his hat-trick went begging.
New Zealand score!
Out of the blue, really, the visitors find a goal back with 20 minutes left for play. New Zealand had failed to apply any pressure after the resumption, and rather than looking to claw their way back into the game, they had looked susceptible to shipping further goals. On a rare counter, striker Barkley, who has largely been kept quiet by his marker Šavor, darted into the area and fired a left-footed effort off Yankos and out for a left wing corner. Riley swung the ball to the edge of the six yard area, and with Olver desperately indecisive when originally coming for the ball, the Australian ‘keeper is left in no man’s land as New Zealand stopper Malcolm Dunford rises to connect. Neither of Calderan or Davidson on the goalline can prevent the ball from making it into the back of the net. 3-1! Game still on?
The answer to the question at the end of the previous passage appears to be a resounding ‘no!’. It is not as if the New Zealanders feel invigorated from Dunford’s goal, as they concede further opportunities for the by now totally dominant Graham Arnold to add to his tally. The 25 year old striker ought to have done better when set up by Petersen just outside the area, but his right foot effort went well wide of target, and next up was a headed chance following a Slater cross from the right. The ball lost momentum when hitting Herbert on its way into Gosling’s hands, though. Kiwi striker McClennan is then booked, possibly for an altercation with his marker Calderan, with whom he’d been seen grappling in the first half. This could well have been a frustrated striker’s response to previous mischief.
Spot-kick and goal
Australia should’ve been further ahead by the time they add a fourth. Ollerenshaw had been lively around the 75 minute mark, although his best opportunity had come when he’d accepted a low right-wing cross from Slater, upon which the 20 year old had prodded into the side-netting. A couple of minutes later, he’s played clean through the square and static New Zealand defence by Crino, and sprinting down on Gosling, the forward proceeds to take the ball beyond the ‘keeper, only to be tripped in the process. While Ollerenshaw still manages to get back up and pot the ball into the back of the unguarded net, the referee had already awarded a penalty. Charlie Yankos dispatched with usual confidence, and their three goal advantage was restored.
Socceroos so dominant
Despite that handsome cushion, the hosts go searching for more. Arnold, who had truly been in the thick of the action, particularly in this second half, could, and probably should, have scored more than the two which he got. A minute after the penalty, he’s served by yet another Slater cross, though with his rucksack on, he fails to keep his effort down from a sound position inside the area. A couple of minutes later, he’s unceremouniously brought down by Evans, yet another frustrated member of the New Zealand camp, though from 22 yards out, Yankos only strikes the subsequent free-kick into the wall, with Crino disappointed not to have been given the chance.
We have no visual confirmation, but shortly after 4-1, New Zealand had reacted by taking off midfielder Witteveen, who had done alright coming forward, but who had totally failed in any attempt to keep their central midfield together from his position alongside Chris Riley. On for him had come youthful defender Rodger Gray, who can be seen appearing in the heart of the defence in the remaining sequences, while original centre-back Dunford, the Kiwi goalscorer, certainly looked to have switched to midfield. Gray is probably also fortunate to escape yellow when he clatters into Arnold midway inside his own half with just over five minutes left for play.
Andy Koczka had filled in well for Yankos during the previous month’s two friendlies against Swedish champions Malmö, and he was rewarded for his decent interpretation of the libero role then as he was thrown into the mix five minutes from time. Arok let his captain rest, though with next to no footage available from the final five minutes, there is absolutely nothing to base any verdict of Koczka on. The game finishes with a 4-1 scoreline, which in many ways flattered the visitors, who were shambolic, particularly after the break.
The game started a bit hesitantly, though there were signs that Australia were beginning to get into their stride by the time the elegant Crino struck low for 1-0 on the quarter of an hour. The hosts continued to be the better team, with greater quality both individually and collectively. Still, they left it until just before the half-time break to increase their advantage, as Arnold finished in style from the edge of the six yard area.
New Zealand had lost influental midfielder Halligan to injury on 41 minutes, and reappeared for the start of the second half with original left-sided midfielder Witteveen filling in centrally, though they would completely abandon their defensive shape, and cutting through the Kiwi rearguard was an all too easy task for an evolving home side. While Arnold added another ten minutes after the restart, it remained a mystery how he failed to complete his hat-trick. The visitors earned a goal back thanks to a set-piece header, but then were caught square again as Ollerenshaw ran through to provoke a foul from Gosling, upon which Yankos tucked home the resulting penalty.
4-1 was resounding enough, but it should’ve been more. Still, Australia had opened their group stage account in style, and could look forward to next weekend’s journey to Israel with a level of confidence. New Zealand, however, were down and just about out of the reckoning.
1 Olver 6.7
conceded in very disappointing fashion, though apart from needing two attempts to hold on to a first half Witteveen near post shot, he generally looked sound, although there was not a whole lot to do after the break
2 Šavor 7.0
initially had a few difficulties in containing the flexible Barkley, but as the latter’s movement gradually subsided, Šavor gained control. Importantly headed over his own bar following Olver’s palm which kept McClennan’s first half effort out
3 Davidson 7.3
showed plenty of energy along the left hand side, where he was a constant outlet. Would generally have the better of Levy, and sought to make use of his flank well. Not directly involved in the goals, but his incessant running was still something which the visitors needed to look out for
4 Yankos 7.2
it got quite comfortable for the skipper from his libero position, and as per norm, he tucked away his penalty with conviction. Wasn’t particularly daring in making advance across the halfway line, and primarily focused on defensive duties
(12 Koczka –
no footage to base even the most limited of impressions on)
5 Calderan 6.9
dutifully stuck to marking McClennan, and did well enough, even if he seemed fairly nervous during the opening half in particular, something which resulted in some stray passes. Still comfortable enough in possession to trot forward at times
6 Wade 7.3
a committed performance from the right hand side member of the team, who also proved himself as someone very capable in the air, a fact which the hosts tried to make use of. Never say die attitude saw him rewarded as he won possession to assist Arnold for their third goal
7 Spink 6.6
showed some early promise, but failed to make use of his pace to much effect, and was one of very few Australians to perhaps leave a slightly disappointing impression
(15 Slater 7.1
turned out an upgrade on Spink. Ran into positions, received the ball, drew defenders wide, and rarely stood still. Ought to have done better with a shot from outside the area)
8 Petersen 7.4
his all-action style saw him gain control of central midfield, and his ability to make sacrifices for the sake of the team made Petersen a vital cog. Gladly accepted to stay back when his partner Crino marched forward
9 Arnold 7.8
it did take the centre-forward a little time to settle, but once he was into his stride, he was simply unplayable. Completely ran the visitors ragged through his physical approach, and showed plenty of appetite to make runs into the channels. Took his two goals well, but would’ve been disappointed not to have bagged a hat-trick
10 Crino 7.6
the team’s big playmaker enjoyed fine working conditions, as he was aptly assisted from behind by Petersen’s endeavour. Spread some intelligent passes, and made runs into the area on various occasions, one which saw him open the scoring with a clever low finish
11 Ollerenshaw 7.1
a greater threat than Spink, as he was able to use his pace on the counter on a few occasions. Still, drifted out of the game too often, but registered an assist for the important opening goal
1 Gosling 6.4
not an entirely convincing display, but his cause was hardly helped by the shambolic impression which the defence in front of him went on to leave. Seemed to commit too early at times, and would punch flighted balls even when he was not under pressure
3 Dunford 6.7
accepted some responsibility at the centre of their defence, but struggled to contain the burly Arnold whenever he came up against him. Provided some aerial strength at attacking set-pieces, and jumped well for his goal
6 Herbert 6.5
at times managed to support Levy along his right hand side, but could not provide sufficient cover at the heart of the defence when it was needed
7 Levy 6.3
had a personal battle with Davidson all afternoon. Did show some early promise, but would soon drift into obscurity, unable to raise the visitors’ game once their levels dropped. Worked himself into some crossing positions, but ultimately lacked quality in delievering
9 McClennan 6.3
found it difficult to wrestle free from the grip in which Calderan held him, and simply didn’t have the necessary mobility to cause much in terms of danger to the home defence, a first half opportunity apart. Frustration seemed to get the better of him as the game wore on, something which ultimately rewarded him with a booking
10 Barkley 6.4
started in relatively bright fashion, where he also mustered a second minute effort just wide, but would gradually fade, and showed preciously little in the second half
11 Halligan 6.8
gave a committed performance for as long as he was on the pitch, and offered invaluable runs in the forward direction from his central midfield role. New Zealand were an inferior team after his premature departure due to injury
(8 Debenham 5.7
after seeing the remainder of the first half out in the centre, he was switched out into a wide left position for the final 45, where he would be on the periphery of the action. Lost the ball in disappointing manner for the hosts’ third)
13 Riley 6.3
worked under difficult conditions as the hosts bossed the centre of the park. A little cautious on the ball, and would rather leave for team mates to be imaginative. His passes were generally sideways. Registered an assist as Dunford scored from his left wing corner
15 Witteveen 6.4
he was another who started well enough, looking interested and capable along the left, but when he was thrust into a central position upon Halligan’s departure, he displayed his lack of defensive mettle. Didn’t seem to have necessary discipline to contribute in the engine room
(12 Gray –
appears to slot in at the heart of the defence, with Dunford moving into midfield, but with footage cut short towards the end, there’s not a whole lot of video material of his performance. Commits a poor foul on Arnold)
17 Evans 6.2
did win a few challenges with Arnold early on, but as the hosts built an increasingly strong grip on the proceedings, the university student failed to cope with his direct opponent, seeing the striker net twice. Received little aid from those around him, but also unable to step up when it was demanded of him
18 Mason 6.7
provided an outlet along the left, from where he did enjoy coming forward, as their left hand side looked promising at stages in the opening half. Defensively one of the players who coped the better, even if he’d come up against both of Australia’s two wide forwards when they doubled up