NZ U-20 open with draw

In a keenly contested match in front of a sell out crowd of 25,000, most of the scoring opportunities for both sides came in transition with Darren Bazeley’s team finishing strongly and unlucky not to take the victory.
Second half chances to break the deadlock came and went as Clayton Lewis, substitute Noah Billingsley and Sam Brotherton all went close to giving the hosts a dream start to their Group A campaign.
Bazeley said he felt both teams were a little nervous in the opening 45 minutes but his side grew in confidence during the second spell.
“First half, I thought it was scrappy and both teams looked like they needed that half to get into the tournament,” Bazeley said.
“Sometimes opening games are a little bit like that. There is so much pressure to not lose that opening game and that went into the first half performance.
“In the second half we came out and looked a lot brighter and a lot sharper and we grew in confidence and we created some good chances to try and win the game.
Despite not getting the result, Bazeley said he was pleased with the side’s energy and the positive intent with which they went about their work against a side full of professionals.
“It wasn’t a game where we sat back and defended for a draw. We tried to win the game and the two or three chances that we created were very close and we kept a clean sheet which was great for us.”
“What we’ve got to remember is that we’ve played today against a team full of professional footballers and that’s not something we have.
“But when you’re watching the game you wouldn’t have said there was a big difference between the two teams. We showed a lot of heart and we showed we can compete against this level of players.”
Ukraine created the best opportunity of the opening 45 minutes via the counter attack as the ball was worked into the New Zealand area in the 14th minute where goalkeeper Oliver Sail parried a strongly struck shot away to safety.
At the other end the Men’s U-20s were also looking likely to break the deadlock without finding regular shooting chances, their work in closing down their opponents producing their own counter attack opportunities – often through the speedy outlet of wide midfielder Joel Stevens.
The wide midfielder delivered a number of crosses into dangerous areas in the box without connecting but one such centre produced a corner which saw Alex Rufer head New Zealand’s best chance of the half over the bar in the 20th minute.
The New Zealand side started the second half on the front foot, spending most of the opening five minutes on attack and could have gone ahead when Lewis was released behind the Ukraine defense but, after muscling off his defender, the attacking midfielder hit his shot over the crossbar.
At the other end Sail was called into action again in the 58th minute, diving to his right to save and hold a shot from the angle while the New Zealand side survived a series of corners soon after with strong defending in their penalty area.
Bazeley’s side created late chances to claim the win in but Deklan Wynne’s cutback was prodded into the arms of Ukraine goalkeeper Roman Pidkivka by Billingsley before another late chance was headed over the bar.
With the crowd roaring the New Zealand side on in stoppage time, Sam Brotherton headed inches wide of Pidkivka’s goal in the aftermath of a freekick.
New Zealand’s next match is against the United States on Tuesday 2 June at 7pm at North Harbour Stadium.
FIFA U-20 World Cup 2015 – Match 1
Saturday 30 May
New Zealand 0-0 Ukraine (half: 0-0)
New Zealand: 1. Oliver Sail (GK), 2. Jesse Edge, 3. Deklan Wynne, 4. Sam Brotherton, 5. Adam Mitchell, 6. Bill Tuiloma (capt – 16. Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi 81’), 7. Joel Stevens (15. Monty Patterson 73’), 8. Moses Dyer, 9. Alex Rufer (20. Noah Billingsley 64’), 10. Clayton Lewis, 11. Matthew Ridenton
Substitutes not used: 12. Nik Tzanev (GK), 13. Brock Messenger, 14. Cory Brown, 17. Andrew Blake, 18. Andre de Jong, 19. Stuart Holthusen, 21. Damian Hirst (GK)
Coach: Darren Bazeley
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