After successive losses away from home to both Israel and Australia, New Zealand’s World Cup qualification campaign seems all but over even before their two home fixtures. However, as long as the theory of mathematics still provides a glimmer of hope, there’s no need to surrender. And a home World Cup qualifier against the old rivals from across the Tasman Sea should always be motivation in itself.
The Australians, too, will be all fired up ahead of an encounter of these proportions, where there’s so much at stake and, to them, plenty to lose. The hardfought point in Tel Aviv has put them handsomely in pole position before the final batch of group stage qualifiers. They had dismantled the New Zealanders at will only three weeks earlier, and even here, away from home, they would have to accept the role as slight favourites.
With just a minor, almost unrealistic hope of achieving group top spot, New Zealand come into this their first home qualifier of the second phase. Successive wins in their two home ties might not even prove sufficient, but any fixture against Australia is likely to bring the best out of the All Whites players.
They were yet again without the service of the Rufer brothers. The two had in fact clashed in the Swiss league on the day before this qualifier, with defender Shane’s Bellinzona holding his younger brother, star forward Wynton, and his Grasshoppers team to a scoreless draw at home. There was also no Ceri Evans, who had earlier moved to England to combine football at second tier club Oxford United with psychology studies at the city’s world famous university.
Making squad comparisons from one qualifier to another is proving difficult, as we’ve previously been unable to track down a verification of unused substitutes. This time around, though, there’s at least visuals of the New Zealand substitutes both prior to kick-off and on the bench during the course of the game, and so we’ve been offered a few hints as to which players manager John Adshead could call upon should he be displeased with the turn of events.
Five substitutes was the maximum allowed quota, while there is fotographic evidence of seven. One unofficial source had suggested that the goalkeeper among those on the All Whites’ bench was Frank van Hattum. 30 years of age, he had played all three of the Kiwis’ matches during the 1982 World Cup in Spain. Apparently, he had retired internationally towards the end of 1986, but still at a relatively modest age for a goalkeeper, he had indeed been recalled to perhaps help out for a game or two. Playing experience from an actual World Cup was rare anywhere, let alone in New Zealand, where team captain Ricki Herbert had been, at least until now in the qualification, the only player still remaining from the tournament in Spain.
Another odd visual fact about the New Zealand select, is that only ten players had lined up in their team shirts on-pitch pre-game, with the seven next to them wearing tracksuit tops, as if to emphasize that they’re the substitutes. So where’s the final starter? We’ve identified Malcolm Dunford as the only player to start not shown among those ten. He would also not appear to be any of the seven in tracksuit tops. A late visit to ‘the little office’, perhaps?
From those seven seen on-pitch prior to the game and wearing tracksuits, Dave Witteveen and Chris Riley, both formerly involved in the qualification, would later appear further away from the others, and so this leads us to believe that they had not made the final squad of 16.
With this the Australians’ final away qualifier, a point would probably be a decent return, although they would still have to wait and see how Israel fared next weekend on their trip to these Auckland shores. While today’s visitors had battled well in Tel Aviv two weeks ago, they had at times come under the cosh against an inspired opponent, and they would need to be at the top of their game here in order to take something back home.
Australia were furthermore without three players who had started the 1-1 draw in Israel: Suspended defender Wally Šavor, who had been sent off late then, and the two Belgium based strikers Frank Farina and Eddie Krnčević. The latter had reached 20 league goals when scoring twice for his Anderlecht during midweek, when they had defeated Lierse 4-2 at home, while he had been kept quiet during yesterday’s impressive 2-1 win away to Mechelen. As for Farina, he had not quite enjoyed the same level of success in his first season abroad, although he had notched five times in eleven league appearances, which indeed was not a bad return. He had come on as a second half substitute during Club Brugge’s 3-1 midweek home win against Royal Antwerp, but not featured in yesterday’s 4-2 loss away to Waregem.
Those apart, manager Frank Arok appeared to have available to him those players whom he wanted to be part of his squad. While we have been able to pinpoint the identity of all 16 players in Australia’s matchday squad, making comparisons from one qualifier to another is equally difficult in regards to the Australians thanks to a lack of previous unused substitutes information.
46 year old Singapore citizen Maidin Bin Singah, a civil servant from profession, had been placed in charge of the game. It was his third World Cup qualifier, as he had officiated in two final round matches of the Asian confederation ahead of the 1986 tournament in Mexico: Hong Kong-China 0-0 in February ’85, and Japan-South Korea 1-2 in October.
We’ve so far been unable to verify the two linesmen for this fixture, although we’ve had suggested to us that Nadesan Chandra was one of the referee’s assistants. Matching his screenshot (see Twitter thread post #33) with available photos goes a long way in confirming this as a fact.
This was the fifth time the two neighbours had been paired together in a World Cup qualification, and it was indeed the fifth time in succession. Unsurprising, as New Zealand and Australia were the two major OFC confederation powers. The previous nine such encounters had ended with three wins for the Socceroos, no less than five draws, and New Zealands solitary, but famous, 2-0 in Sydney in ’81, which had qualified them for their only World Cup participation so far: Spain ’82.
Only three weeks had passed since Australia’s overwhelming 4-1 triumph in the Sydney Football Stadium. All four previous World Cup qualifiers on New Zealand territory had ended in draw.
The total record between the two countries read 25-9-10 in favour of today’s visiting big brother. That included a ten game winning streak from 1933 to 1948.
Mount Smart Stadium in New Zealand’s most populous city, Auckland, was where the country’s national football team was playing their home matches. At least it was so for matches against ‘bigger’ opponents. They had played their two preliminary ties during this ongoing World Cup qualification in Wellington and at Western Springs (also in Auckland) respectively, but with arch rivals Australia providing the opposition, they had switched back to the venue which had served them so well in qualification for the 1982 World Cup.
As can be seen from footage, the stadium had vast banks of grass. With few capacity issues, the risk of filling the Mount Smart was almost non-existing. Later in 1989, the Kiwis’ rugby league national team would play their first international fixture here. 15,000 would come to see the 14-22 loss against Australia.
New Zealand (4-4-2)
|1 Clint Gosling
|2 Michael Ridenton
|3 Malcolm Dunford
|4 Garry Lund
|6 Ricki Herbert (c)
|9 Darren McClennan
|10 Noel Barkley
|59′, sub 73′
|14 Billy Wright
|Blacktown City Demons
|16 Robert Ironside
|17 Fred de Jong
|18 Thomas Mason
|7 Tony Levy
|11 Danny Halligan
|x Frank van Hattum
|x Rodger Gray
|x Nigel Debenham
|1 Jeff Olver
|2 Alan Davidson
|3 Gary van Egmond
|4 Charlie Yankos (c)
|5 Steve Calderan
|6 Paul Wade
|7 Warren Spink
|8 Mike Petersen
|9 Graham Arnold
|10 Oscar Crino
|11 Scott Ollerenshaw
|12 Andy Koczka
|15 Robbie Slater
|x Mike Gibson
|x Graham Jennings
|x Alex Tobin
In front of an audience which would later be revealed as a 3,340 strong crowd, the two teams had lined up on-pitch for the rendition of the two national anthems. While the stadium didn’t give an impression of being overcrowded, far from, this partly had to do with the fact that the spectators were scattered around the complex, with several having positioned themselves on the large grass banks, predominantly behind the goal in which Australia ‘keeper Jeff Olver would shortly find himself posted.
The FIFA banner and the two countries’ flags were waiving ferociously in what appeared to be pretty severe winds, and with the home side kicking from right to left in this opening period, they were the team given the benefit of having the gales behind them. The kick-off itself would be executed by Australia’s Graham Arnold and Warren Spink, both forwards.
There is a tentative opening to the game by the hosts, but it could be assumed that there’s an idea behind them sitting back and accepting that the visitors enjoy the bulk of the early possession. The New Zealand team is equipped with several players of robust nature, and to further enhance this impression, they’ve added the two Australia based players Robbie Ironside and Fred de Jong to their eleven for the first time in this qualification. While the former does need a few minutes to adjust to the climate of international football, he will soon enough prove his worth. De Jong has been drafted in to accompany McClennan up top.
As for the visitors, they would have felt confident in these early proceedings, knowing well how they’d thrashed a soft All Whites side in their home tie three weeks earlier, and also worked hard to accumulate their point in Tel Aviv two weeks ago. Still, there was nothing to be taken for granted in this tie, and they would need to once again raise the bar in order to achieve their target.
The Australians do enjoy the majority of the early possession, although their passing game is not always spot on, something which perhaps even the conditions must take some blame for. While there’s a strong wind assisting the home side during this first half, the surface of the pitch also appears to be uneven, making crisp passes difficult. Uncharacteristically, skipper Charlie Yankos is seen making a couple of early errors. The visitors will need their main man to lead by example from the back once again, like he’s done so impeccably until now in the qualification.
All Whites grow into it
With the visitors showing plenty of leniency rather than the level of aggression which could perhaps have been expected of them in a ‘derby’ game like this, the hosts gradually gain in confidence and eat their way into the contest. New Zealand’s several physically imposing players make sure that the pendulum is swung in their favour through winning plenty of duels, and though their initial idea is to sit back and try to catch Australia on the break, they also show a level of enterprise in letting the ball do the talking between their players. It is most certain that the first quarter of an hour has provided them with increased confidence.
The pace of the game is not high, although the cautious manner of the opening proceedings is slowly giving way to more frenetic stuff. In midfield, the hosts have bolstered their central areas through drafting Ironside into their eleven, as well as having the rugged Malcolm Dunford start there alongside him, albeit in a more defensive capacity. While the latter is a central defender of nature, he had been pushed into midfield towards the end of the game in Sydney. Now he’s there from the offset. They do not let the usually so fluent Oscar Crino have much time to dally in possession.
New Zealand strike!
18 minutes into the game, the hosts earn a free-kick to the left inside the penalty area following dangerous play by centre-back Steve Calderan, who’s raised his foot and struck de Jong right on the side of the head in an attempt to clear the ball. The situation had originally come about thanks to a poor headed clearance by the visitors’ other central defender Gary van Egmond, so at this point, all three men at the heart of the Australian central defence had displayed various levels of jittery.
While some would’ve wanted a penalty for Calderan’s offence, any such shouts soon silenced when Dunford rose unchallenged in the centre to head home Noel Barkley’s right-footed delivery. It was the perfect start for this new-look New Zealand team. Dunford had now scored in successive matches against their big rivals. He was sporting blood trickling down from the left side of his forehead after an earlier challenge, though it was not as if he cared.
Home side remain confident
There is no immediate upsurge in quality to the Australian visitors’ play in the wake of the goal. More would certainly have been expected of them, as they had dominated to such an extent in the home tie against today’s opponents, and also after the way they had battled to earn a point in Israel in their previous outing. Full credit, though, to New Zealand for taking the game to their adversaries. They are on the front foot by the halfway point in the first half, and though it is not like they’re creating bagfuls of opportunities in front of Jeff Olver, they certainly make their presence felt in just about every challenge.
Australia’s performance into the strong wind is a flat one. They just can’t seem to find that spark to get going. They’re hesitant at the back, lack ideas and creativity in midfield, and up top, well, their trio has so far been dealt with swiftly by the Kiwis’ backline. Manager Frank Arok must be quite worried at what he sees, while his counterpart on the opposite bench, John Adshead, will feel buoyant. Striker Darren McClennan is the latest player to show his battling desire when he first challenges Olver for a ball near the touchline, and then executes a tackle, admittedly a poorly timed one to concede a free-kick, on Crino inside the centre-circle.
The New Zealand select
At the rear of their team, the All Whites have Australia based ‘keeper Clint Gosling once again. Although manager Adshead has at his disposal the experienced Frank van Hattum, Gosling’s stance as his country’s number one choice appears solid. He had not always looked so confident during the loss in Sydney, while so far in this game, he’s rarely been tested.
Among the four men at the back, young Michael Ridenton is featuring along the right hand side. 21 years of age, he is making his first appearance of the qualification group stage, albeit he’d featured in both preliminary ties against Chinese Taipei. Ridenton generally sticks to simple principles in his passing game, while defensively he must be focused in tracking either of Scott Ollerenshaw or Warren Spink, as the two Australia wide forwards tend to swap sides from time to time.
In the heart of their defence, the hosts are equipped with stalwart Rickie Herbert alongside the strapping Garry Lund. The latter had apparently taken ill just before kick-off in Australia, and so had not featured. Herbert, the team’s captain with a wealth of experience, although he’s still only 27, does appear to be playing slightly behind and to the right of Lund, and so would it not be fair to tag him as their sweeper? Possibly. Lund is tasked with looking after the visitors’ main striker Graham Arnold, and it is a job which he goes about very dutifully. He is also someone who is sent forward for attacking set-pieces, where he offers a threat thanks to his height.
Left-back is Thomas Mason, the 28 year old who has returned to New Zealand and Mount Wellington after a stint in English non-league football. Adshead was once quoted “Mason’s the most natural left-sided player in the country”, and yes, the full-back is certainly equipped with a fine left foot. Like Ridenton across from him, he also needs to carefully attend to whomever of the two Australia wide forwards choses to attack down his side. Furthermore, Mason is one of five starters from Mount Wellington, so he knows quite well this ground, his home stadium at domestic level.
As previously mentioned, the central midfield pairing is Malcolm Dunford and Robert Ironside. They are both quite tenacious players, and the former is purely in there to add some extra bite against the visitors’ pair Crino and Petersen. So far, it is working them a treat. Dunford is a no-nonsense player, and his commitment has certainly helped New Zealand gain the upper hand at the halfway stage in the first half. His aerial presence, which Australia have found out about both home and away in the current qualification, is also something to look out for.
Ironside had been very disappointed to have been omitted from the team for the Chinese Taipei matches, and it had taken him some time to get over this. He had been rumoured as wanting to quit the national team, but Adshead had wanted him back for this tie, and his return was most definitely a welcome one. While he had perhaps looked a bit wary initially, he was coming on in leaps and bounds, and was offering plenty of aggression and even legs in his midfield role, which was open to interpretation. Ironside would make runs from the deep, thus providing another body when the hosts broke forward.
Along the flanks, the All Whites had two players who were also capable of featuring up front in Billy Wright along the right hand side and Noel Barkley opposite. From a distance, they both appeared somewhat similar with their moustached faces and even through their hairstyles, while it did seem as if Barkley had greater appetite for tracking back and aiding in defensive cover. This would have been helpful for Mason at left-back. Barkley would also feature as set-piece taker, predominantly from the right, and had obviously assisted Dunford for the goal. Wright appeared to have more pace about him, and his slighter workrate perhaps risked Ridenton behind him to be left exposed at times.
Up top, both McClennan and de Jong had so far justified their inclusions. The former appeared to be a big Adshead favourite, despite his inability to find the back of the net at international level. Well, obviously he had racked up four goals across the two Chinese Taipei matches, but against sterner opposition, he had not quite looked the same threat. Here, though, he looked sharp and committed, and he was giving his marker van Egmond a run-around. His partner de Jong was playing slightly towards the right, and was being monitored by Calderan.
The home side’s gaining in confidence and belief by the minute, and parallelly, the Australians are looking demoted. They can’t even string a short sequence of passes together, and when they eventually do find some space to do so inside the New Zealand half of the pitch, Crino’s pass forward down the left is whistled off as Spink has moved too early. It is odd seeing how idealess they portray themselves on the back of those two earlier group stage performances.
As for goalscorer Dunford being in the thick of the action, his impressive burst down the right hand side prompts visiting skipper Yankos into action, although his attempted tackle only serves to hack the Kiwi man down quite forcefully. This sparks a yellow card from the referee, Yankos’ first one for the qualification. Another sign that the Australia number 4 is not quite at the races today. There’s been a few already, with no less than three of his passes going astray.
A run-through the Australian eleven
Australia are in their by now more or less customary 3-4-3 formation, and though they had been forced into making a minimum of three changes since the draw in Israel two weeks ago, the core of players remained intact. This saw them once again with the steady Jeff Olver between the sticks. Granted, he had conceded that poor goal at home to New Zealand, when he’d flapped at Chris Riley’s left wing corner, allowing Dunford to head home. However, that situation apart, he had looked reliable in the current qualification.
At the back, Yankos remained at the heart of their central defensive trio, working behind the other two as the team’s libero, and often being their go-to man when it came to hitting the long ball. Australia do tend to make use of direct means, though while Yankos had previously been seen aiming in the direction of Paul Wade along the right flank, that particular move was hardly dominant on this occasion. He was also renowned for his ability to hit the target from distance, and so would usually be first in line when there was an attacking set-piece to be struck goalwards.
With Wally Šavor suspended thanks to his collection of yellow cards in Tel Aviv, Gary van Egmond made his return to the eleven. Perhaps a little surpringly, given the fact that we know for sure Graham Jennings had been their unused defensive substitute in the home game against the Kiwis, and subsequently come on at the death in Israel? 23 year old van Egmond, a team mate of Oscar Crino’s at Melbourne club Footscray JUST (Jugoslav United Soccer Team), had featured during the preliminaries, and replaced Šavor directly on this occasion. He would stick to McClennan.
The dependable Steve Calderan was the left-sided among the two centre-halves working ahead of their captain. A team mate at club level with New Zealand’s all-action midfielder Ironside, both playing for Marconi in Fairfield near Sydney, he was another relatively dependable, non-spectacular member of the side. Defensively had probably been where Australia had failed to impress so far, at least individually, and Calderan remained another low-key figure for the Socceroos side. His strength appeared to be in combat rather than having his legs stretched.
The midfield four consisted of ‘steady Eddie’ Mike Petersen and the more attacking Oscar Crino through the centre, while Paul Wade and the busy Alan Davidson again occupied the flanks. This meant their midfield quartet had been kept intact throughout the group stage of the qualification. Wade was more a hard-worker, a grafter, than someone likely to take a defender on in order to try and make it to the byline for a cross, and he would dutifully cover ground inside his own half. He was also more than capable in the air, probably more due to his jump than his size. Davidson across from him was using his energy in a two-way manner: Aiding defensively along his left hand side (he was right-footed, by the way), while also contributing in the forward direction through some direct running.
In the centre, 23 year old Petersen was tasked with greater defensive responsibility than his co-worker Crino, who once again came across as their playmaker; he was the one who was supposed to make Australia tick. Equipped with some fine close control and a good range of passing, as well as knowing when to try and thread a forward through, Crino on his day was a joy to watch. Here in Auckland, though, he was so far not having his best game, although in that particular field he was far from alone. Petersen alongside him toiled as ever, but was also more subdued than in his earlier two group stage performances.
As Eddie Krnčević and Frank Farina had both returned to their Belgian clubs in the wake of the draw in Israel, the manager had again drafted in Warren Spink and Scott Ollerenshaw to complete the front three alongside centre-forward Graham Arnold. While it always felt natural for right-footer Spink to feature along the right and left-footer Ollerenshaw opposite, they would frequently swap positions, and even co-exist along the same side for some attacks. Arnold kept himself through the centre, where he would battle it out with the tall Lund. Neither of the three seemed on fire this afternoon.
Not a whole lot of quality
New Zealand’s tactics of sitting deep and then break at pace when they win possession works very well. Australia, whose battling skills had played a major role in earning them a point two weeks ago, have so far not really turned up. You’re left with a feeling that they were underestimating their opponent, and they could be left to rue this failure to dig deep mentally. Manager Arok is shown spitting his frustration in the dug-out, as one attack after another breaks down. There’s a low tempo to their game, and passes inexplicably go astray. Movement off the ball is also scarce, as highlighted when Davidson wants to hit a free-kick in the forward direction, only to demonstrate through his body language how he finds no options.
The home side are gritty, determined and disciplined. They know precisely what they must do in order to handle this Australian side, and they’re executing their manager’s tactics to perfection. No-one epitomizes better their attitude than hard-working midfielder Ironside, who pulls a save, albeit comfortable, from Olver after a low strike from just inside the area on 34 minutes. Down the other end, Gosling has yet to break sweat.
Remainder of first half
Referee Bin Singah lets the first half run through to 46,31, and until half time, there’s still no sight of any worry for New Zealand custodian Gosling. Well, perhaps with one exception: A surprise run on the ball from van Egmond sees the centre-back make fine advance, and he’s not stopped in his tracks until Dunford takes matters into his own hands and impedes him 23-24 yards away from goal. With Yankos’ goal in Tel Aviv fresh in everyone’s memory, the Australia skipper gets to test his boots again, despite Crino’s clear interest. This time, though, his effort is several yards over the crossbar.
Dunford is probably the stand-out player towards the latter stages of the half. The defender-turned-midfielder is certainly no inferior to his central colleague Ironside, and he runs, tackles and passes to completely dominate the visitors’ engine room. It is Graham Arnold who feels the power of Dunford’s challenge in the centre-circle, while it had earlier taken a Yankos intervention to prevent the New Zealand goalscorer to direct a cross in from the right. Dunford had won the corner, though.
By the half-time whistle, the home side’s lead is warranted. They have generally been the better side, even if they at times had let the visitors enter well inside their half of the pitch before they started pressing collectively. On the break, wide right man Wright and central midfielder Ironside had probably been the two outstanding players in transition, while McClennan had often looked to utilize his pace to pull van Egmond away from the centre. In addition, they had de Jong’s and Barkley’s physique to add into the mix, and to a flat visiting side, it was all too much. 1-0.
During the half-time interval, we’re treated to an interview conducted by New Zealand TV reporter Ian Woodley on former Kiwis captain Steve Sumner, who had played during the 1982 World Cup. Sumner is well impressed by the New Zealand performance during the opening 45 minutes, and rightly so. They had closed down and harried, and were good value for their lead. Furthermore, there’s also the verdict from Adrian Elrick, another participant of that 1982 squad, who was also working as co-commentator for the game. He had been particularly impressed with how Dunford and Ironside had reduced the threat from Crino.
The Australian team were seen back on the pitch early for the start of the second half, something which could be interpreted as a sign of them being quite eager to sort their issues out. Defeat in Auckland, while likely not disastrous, was surely not what they had arrived for, and still just a goal behind, they were looking for an improved second half performance.
The New Zealand team arrived to a chorus of cheers a couple of minutes thereafter. There had been no substitutions made during the break, and so it was the twin strike force of the home side, Fred de Jong and Darren McClennan, who would get the ball rolling for the second period.
There were no prizes for guessing the correct turn of events next: The first half had indeed offered an insight into New Zealand’s tactics for the day, and with Mr Adshead’s team a goal to the good and playing into the wind, it would be a major surprise if they didn’t remain focused on keeping it tight at the back and try to hit the visitors on the counter. While de Jong was not the quickest, his front partner McClennan did have rapid feet. The latter could pose a threat on the break, especially if Australia got lured too high up the pitch with their backline.
Almost immediately upon the restart, the Socceroos should have pegged their hosts back. It is in fact quite astonishing how they failed to score when Arnold, who had received Crino’s ball forward with his back to both Lund and the New Zealand goal, played a clever ball to his left for Ollerenshaw, who in turn fed him back. Having lost his marker and 13 yards out, Arnold is set up for a clean strike on target, and to his credit the forward hits it well with his right foot, only to be denied by a tremendous one-handed Gosling save. The rebound fell invitingly for Ollerenshaw, but while his position was far from as good as Arnold’s, he hardly enhanced his reputation when he skied his shot.
The conditions do play their part, too. The wind has most likely not lost any of its force during the half-time break, rather to the contrary, as Petersen finds out with an early throw-in from the right, almost by the corner flag. His attempt to hoist the ball towards the edge of the six yard area failed, as the gales got hold of the ball and carried it out of play well behind the goalline. Moreover, booted clearances from the New Zealand defensive line rarely travelled very far. Still, their generally more robust players saw them win plenty of challenges, and so they were usually not in trouble defensively as a result.
Australia’s central defender Steve Calderan should have earned his marching orders on 53 minutes. In fact, how the referee even failed to produce a yellow card was quite unbelievable. As previously touched on, McClennan had a bit of pace to carry him, and having been passed the ball inside his own half, he proceeded to quickly turn and seemingly leave Calderan for dead. The centre-back, to his credit, didn’t give up the chase, though, even if his next cause of action was scything McClennan down cynically, and in knee-height, from behind as the striker was bursting into the final third of the pitch. Just a free-kick was the outcome. Terrible non-decision.
Despite the home side’s main priority on shutting the Australians out, there remains an open feeling to the game so far in this second half. While branding it ‘end to end’ might be a slight exaggeration, the opportunities which the hosts have to stretch that three man defensive unit for the visitors are quite frequent. De Jong is clearly their first target, and his ambition is to either flick it on or play it through to his partner, who is often positioned towards the right hand side. McClennan does often find huge pockets of space, although his attempts at reaching any team mate who had made it forward through the centre have so far been futile.
The 47 minute chance for Arnold had seemed a false dawn, as the Australians failed to build on that early possible momentum. During the first half, they had looked flat and uninspired, despite knowing well what was at stake, and even in approaching the hour mark, there’s little improvement in their overall play. Usually, they rely on Crino finding the openings, but on this occasion, the New Zealand central midfield pair have done a terrific job in nullifying his threat. Among them, incidentally, Malcolm Dunford has had a half-time shirt swap. His cut to the head had led to a lot of blood, and in order to reappear in a cleaner version of himself, he had been donned the number 5 jersey for the final 45 minutes, thus leaving behind his #3 shirt.
There’s a first yellow card for one of the Kiwis on 59 minutes, when wide left midfielder Noel Barkley goes into the referee’s book for his foul on Warren Spink. The Australia forward had attempted to drift from the right towards the centre, and having seen Calderan escape even a talking-to by the referee for his bad foul on McClennan, Barkley must have felt somewhat bemused that Mr Bin Singah pulled out the card on this occasion. It had not been a particularly wicked foul.
Little improvement from visitors
Wide play, as in the conventional sense of the phrase, is fairly absent from both parties. It could have been particularly useful for the visitors to try and create openings using the flanks, but neither of Spink or Ollerenshaw were prolific in such capacity, and the pair of wide midfielders, Wade and Davidson, were also not prone to keeping width. This reduced the Socceroos’ threat levels, as defending through the centre was a comfortable task for the robust Kiwis team.
That early Arnold opportunity apart, Australian chances have until now been at a minimum, and they’d have accepted an opportunity to strike at target from 30 yards when Spink had been fouled by Barkley on 62 minutes. Considering how the wind was behind the visitors, and not least Yankos’ ability to direct a ball on to the goal frame, New Zealand ‘keeper Clint Gosling must have been on high alert. However, in line with the rest of Australia’s indifferent performance, the skipper wasted the opportunity by firing low and to the left of the upright. In the dug-out, Frank Arok appeared to be filled with utter frustration, covering his face and looking disjointed.
For whatever reason, the visitors opted to take centre-back Calderan off and replace him with Andy Koczka. The 23 year old had previously had some game time in the sweeper position, though he would prove to be a direct replacement for his central defensive colleague. The fact that Calderan should have been booked, at least, for his earlier involvement against McClennan, could perhaps have been a contributing factor to the manager now replacing him. There had been no sign of an injury, although Koczka had been seen warming up along the touchline for a few minutes already. Still, it hardly looked like a substitution to spark impetus into a despondent team.
Rather expectedly, there is no straight reward for the visitors’ first substitution. It did seem more and more likely that Koczka, who slotted into the back three in a marking capacity against de Jong, had come on for Calderan due to some sort of injury. It would certainly not be fair to single the substitute out for criticism, as it was hardly Koczka’s fault that he had been brought on, though a defender on for a defender had not felt what Australia had been looking for. They clearly struggle for ideas, and find themselves incapable of hurting the sturdy home defence, which continues to stay alert and collected.
The New Zealanders must be quite content at the way the game is evolving. They are a goal up at home against what is arguably their chief rivals, and they can sit back, cut off avenues, and try their best to hit the visitors on the counter. This remains their tactical lay-out in the second half, where little effort is made in trying to maintain possession in midfield, and bringing their wide midfielders into play. There is a burst into the area made by the effervescent Ironside during one such transition occasion, but de Jong is unable to reach him.
Approaching 70 minutes, Australia make their second and final change when Arok opts to withdraw midfielder Petersen for the wily Robbie Slater. The compact 24 year old of Sydney United had also arrived as a second half substitute in the previous meeting between these two, when he had been introduced as a wide forward, coming on for Spink. This time around, though, it remains to be seen what his whereabouts will be, though you’re left with a feeling that this is almost a desperate throw of the dice, with all three starting forwards still on.
While there’s on-pitch treatment for New Zealand’s Wright, who had collided with Australia ‘keeper Olver in yet another forward break, the amount of play between the visitors’ second substitution and the hosts’ first is limited. However, the tendency appears to be that Slater has slotted into Paul Wade’s position to the right in midfield. While the latter had often assisted inside, Slater’s role would clearly be a more attacking one. This had seen Wade move into the centre alongside Crino, as the Australians’ 3-4-3 formation remained. Next up we register how the hard-running Danny Halligan has been brought on for the home side, while Noel Barkley, who had had to cover a lot of ground in his wide capacity, had been ordered to take a seat.
Arnold with difficult working conditions
Plenty of attacking responsibility for the visitors had been resting upon Graham Arnold’s shoulders. The striker, who had played just off centre-forward Eddie Krnčević in Tel Aviv, was back in his familiar top forward role, but he had so far enjoyed little luck in the many duels with the Kiwis’ strong centre-back Garry Lund. Arnold had seen Gosling save his shot in that huge early second half chance, but other than that he had struggled to wrestle himself free from Lund’s shackles. On 74 minutes, he had been played into the box by Crino and won a right wing corner off the defender, and a minute later he headed another corner, again swung in from the right by Ollerenshaw’s left foot, well over at the near post. While far from having a peak performance, Arnold still felt like the visitors’ main threat.
Australia continue with the majority of the possession, but their lack of creativity and cutting edge are alarming. They work their way into a couple of crossing positions and do have some set-piece situations, either through right wing corners or free-kicks from the deep, but nothing come of either.
With less than ten minutes to go, this happens…
Suddenly, New Zealand break away once more. It happens when Ironside, who is still working his socks off, commits a perfect tackle right in the middle of the home side’s half, where Wade has tried to steady himself for an effort from distance. Before the Australia midfielder had been able to pull the trigger, Ironside’s forceful tackle had won the All Whites the ball. It found its way to Billy Wright, who had switched from right to left after Halligan’s introduction, and the wide man ran unopposed down the left wing channel. Yankos had just stood off him, and in spotting Olver off his line, Wright proceeded to curl the ball over the goalkeeper with his right foot from 22-23 yards out. It found its way into the top left corner for a true peach of a goal. 2-0! Wow!
Any way back for the Socceroos?
As if recovering from a single goal deficit had not looked troublesome enough, Australia now looked to find themselves with the proverbial mountain to climb. Even in the wake of Wright’s goal, they continue to look laboured, and Slater’s earlier introduction had failed to revive them. It is difficult to point out exactly what had gone wrong, but they had not looked particularly up for the fight against a clearly bigger and more physical home side. Manager Arok continued to look crestfallen in the dug-out. Were this to be the outcome, the result could have major bearings on the Australians’ hopes to qualify for the intercontinental play-offs. The supremo’s pale appearance was understandable in the circumstances.
The home side, with Halligan providing plenty of legs along the right hand side of midfield, and high on adrenaline following that latest goal, were finding defending quite a doable task. Their players were playing with fire in their bellies, and you could see their team spirit soar following the latest turn of events. They had replaced striker Darren McClennan right in the wake of the goal, and he was subsequently spotted on the bench with his left knee covered in ice. He’d evidently taken a whack, and on in his place had come Tony Levy, who had in earlier qualifiers featured at right wing, but who on this occasion had replaced McClennan up top.
Through to full time
There is no final push from the away side clad in yellow and green. Australia, with their frustration getting the better of their desperation, knock the ball long, either from Wade, who again looks to be operating more towards the right hand side, but probably only as a result that they’ve gone 3-3-4 in these dying stages, or from skipper Yankos. This has no effect on the home defence, which stands tall right through to the full-time whistle. Some balls are even carried too long in the wind.
There’s some rough treatment on goalscorer Wright from Crino, with the latter entering a duel late, and the player now featuring to the left in the New Zealand midfield needs treatment after getting kicked. It is nothing too serious, and he’s back on to his feet after a little rest. The exasperated Australia midfield man could well have been booked for his efforts, but the visitors will receive just the single card which their captain had picked up for that first half foul on Dunford.
A third yellow of the afternoon still arrives, though, and Mr Bin Singah irritates the home crowd when he proceeds to show it to their goalkeeper Clint Gosling, who is trying to release the ball up field, only to be stopped in his track by Arnold. The slightly erratic referee felt that Gosling had tried to waste time.
Still, two minutes and 44 seconds into time added on, the Singaporean official lets sound his whistle one final time, upon which the home players, management and fans alike join in celebration for what had been a memorable win against their big neighbours. Perhaps were they even still in with a late shout for the qualifying group’s top spot? Israel would arrive in Auckland the following week, and another home win for the Kiwis did perhaps not look unlikely if they could replicate this level of performance.
It is a well-deserved home win in the end. Australia, whom it was felt were the team with the most to play for coming into the tie, failed to turn up. They gave a performance of indifference and ineptitude, and they paid the price. New Zealand, in contrary, had arrived with a huge desire to set the record straight after their abject display in Sydney recently. Assisted by the wind, they grabbed hold of midfield through some truly aggressive play by both Malcolm Dunford and Robbie Ironside, and the former headed home the opening goal in 20 minutes.
Little went right for Australia all afternoon. They did have a massive chance to level the scores right after the restart, but Gosling denied Arnold the equalizer thanks to a strong arm. The visitors could not build any second half momentum, despite having the bulk of the possession. They had no creativity with Crino taken out of the game by the home side’s midfield, and the hosts were concentrating on sitting deep and defending, and then hit the Socceroos on the break. One such occasion even saw them rewarded with a second goal, as Wright’s solo run saw him hit a deliciously curled effort into the top corner. It was pure joy for New Zealand.
1 Gosling 7.2
commanded his area well, and when he didn’t feel confident enough to claim, he punched. Also sound on his line, and that early second half stop to deny Arnold was as vital as it was terrific
2 Ridenton 6.7
relatively anonymous performance by the youngster, who still looked increasingly confident after a bit of a hesitant start
3 Dunford 7.4
plenty of midfield power, as he contributed to winning the battle of the engine room. Scored again against the Australians, like he had done in Sydney, and provided steel throughout. Also brought down for Yankos’ yellow card
4 Lund 7.4
stuck dutifully to Arnold all afternoon, and did a terrific job, only going walkabout for the striker’s second half chance. So strong in the air
6 Herbert 7.1
swept around or behind Lund, and contributed with plenty of booted clearances and balls down the right flank. Surely vital through his mere presence, and as always he displayed plenty of commitment
9 McClennan 7.1
chased and harried, and was a constant nuisance on the break, when he often opted to pull wide, especially in the second half
(7 Levy –
saw the game out in McClennan’s role up front, though did not see much action)
10 Barkley 7.0
went through a whole lot of work inside his own half, and also played his part in some of their first half transitions. Assisted with the free-kick for Dunford’s header. Replaced in the second half for some fresh legs
(11 Halligan –
brought on to feature as a right-sided midfielder, and with some trademark strong running, he further strengthened the Kiwis’ grip on the proceedings)
14 Wright 7.2
not quite the same physical presence along his flank as Barkley on the opposite side, but proved his worth on the many counters during the second half, when he also delivered that telling moment for 2-0
16 Ironside 7.6
produced a performance of power and grit to put a big dent in the Australian midfield fluidity. Showed a big engine, and popped up inside the opposition’s box on a few occasions as well
17 de Jong 6.8
not quite as mobile as his partner up top, but won a few headers, and his physical presence did worry the visitors’ defence. Won the free-kick which preceded 1-0
18 Mason 6.8
like his full-back counterpart Ridenton, Mason typically focused on defensive duties. Rarely ventured forward, but would also rarely concede crosses from deep down his side
1 Olver 6.7
did not have an awful lot to do, but again looked a little hesitant at set-pieces, and was left completely exposed for the opening goal. Off his line for the second, but Wright’s curler was world class to beat him
2 Davidson 6.5
could not quite get into the game along the left hand side, and gave into the temptation of trying to compete in field. Strangely subdued, but also not utilised when he did keep width
3 van Egmond 6.7
a difficult afternoon in trying to keep up with the lively McClennan, though he battled well, and never looked short in belief. Still, struggled in his positioning in the second half, when New Zealand’s play was more concentrated around breaks
4 Yankos 6.5
not quite up to his usual standards; looked a little nervous from the off. Strangely opted to stand off Wright for the latter’s late goal, and even his long distribution was below par. Also wasted his two free-kicks from distance
5 Calderan 6.5
conceded that free-kick against de Jong inside the area prior to the opening goal, and struggled in the air against the big forward. Could have walked for his cynical foul on McClennan second half, and was later substituted
(12 Koczka 6.6
came on at a time when Australia were in desperate need of attacking impetus. No big lapses defensively, but also not entirely convincing)
6 Wade 6.6
committed enough, but along the right hand side, he was often kept in check by the workmanlike Barkley. Worked more towards the centre after Slater’s introduction, but could not quite raise his game. Tackled ahead of the second goal
7 Spink 6.2
tried to feed off Arnold, but with the latter’s inability to win duels against Lund, Spink’s presence was largely ineffective. Lacked ruthlessness, and failed to make his mark on the game
8 Petersen 6.3
lost the midfield battle against New Zealand’s pair, and failed to support the team’s more creative member in providing necessary space. Clearly displeased by his own performance after taken off for a more creative outlet
(15 Slater –
worked to the right after coming on, but with Australia failing to get behind their wide midfielders, Slater did not represent much of an upgrade after coming on. Also attempted to work to Arnold’s left for a brief spell, equally little fruitful)
9 Arnold 6.4
is usually full of commitment and endeavour, but quickly realized that he was up against a tough customer in the tall Lund. Managed to carve out that huge early second half chance, but also left little print on proceedings in general
10 Crino 6.3
certainly did not appreciate the tough environment, with the New Zealand duo snapping at his feet. Failed to provide the ammunition for his strikers, and even his crosses were not of regular standards
11 Ollerenshaw 6.7
plenty of legs and endeavour, but also precious little end product. At least he was trying, but often ran into cul-de-sacs