AUCKLAND – For the second time in five days, the Football Ferns have lost a match they dominated against Olympic hosts China, going down 0-1 in Qinhuangdao in the early hours of Monday morning (NZ time).
In a frenetic first five minutes, China repelled two early efforts from a New Zealand attacking corner before Han Duan opened the scoring at the other end, drifting unchecked at the near post and clipping the ball low past goalkeeper Jenny Bindon.
New Zealand coach John Herdman was left with a sense of déjà vu after close losses to Australia (0-1) and China (1-3) in the past week.
“The players are gutted. The last three games they’ve taken nothing from them when they should’ve taken something,” Herdman said.
“After the goal we battered them. We’ve out crossed them, out shot them, out pressed them but just couldn’t turn it into goals.”
Kirsty Yallop went close to equalising for the Ferns within minutes of Han’s goal, but her back post header was turned round the post by China’s ‘keeper in the 10th minute.
New Zealand created a host of half-chances – and a few full-blooded ones – in the second half, with the pace and delivery from Ali Riley a constant danger on the right of midfield but, in an increasingly familiar script, the Football Ferns could not turn dominance in possession and territory into victory.
Herdman could see the positives in another competitive showing at Qinhuangdao stadium just two and a half weeks out from their Olympic opener against Japan at the same venue.
“It’s another consistent performance in front of twenty odd thousand people and the beauty is that on August 6 these players are going to be ready for Japan, a team who China beat 3-1 a few weeks ago.
“It’s not the Olympics yet, and the signs are very good. China will be relieved to come away with what they got today.”
“We’re a different team now. The players know they can live on the world stage but our work in the attacking third is not world class and until it is we won’t win these close games,” Herdman said.
“That’ll be our main focus against Singapore, who should give us opportunity to work in those areas.’
New Zealand play Singapore on Wednesday and Canada on Friday – both in Singapore – before returning to China to prepare for Olympic group G matches against Japan, Norway and USA.
Football Ferns 0 China 1 (Han Duan 5)
Football Ferns: Jenny Bindon (GK), Ria Percival, Rebecca Smith (Kristy Hill 71), Abby Erceg, Marlies Oostdam (Anna Green 46), Ali Riley, Katie Hoyle, Hayley Moorwood (Captain), Kirsty Yallop, Amber Hearn (Rebecca Tegg 73), Renee Leota (Emma Kete 46).
Substitutes not used: Rachel Howard (RGK), Emily McColl, Merissa Smith.
Head coach: John Herdman