The Football Ferns have gone down fighting, losing 2-0 to Scotland in an international friendly in wet conditions in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain.
The World No 19, who were playing under Head Coach Andreas Heraf for the first time since he was appointed in December, went behind in the first half when Jane Ross opened the scoring for Scotland and a defensive error from the Ferns late in the second half saw Lisa Evans put the game to bed.
Scotland, who opened 2018 with a draw with Russia (0-0) and a loss to Norway (3-0) in January, got back to winning ways after they recorded five international wins in 2017.
It was a hard fought and physical contest from the opening whistle with Scotland, who defeated New Zealand 3-2 this time last year at the Cyprus Cup, having the better of the first half chances.
The experienced forward Ross, playing in her 111th A International for Scotland, scored her 54th goal for the national team when she hit a powerful shot which Football Ferns keeper Erin Nayler saved but Ross was quick on the follow up to find the back of the net.
Her fellow forward Claire Emslie came close to doubling the lead a few minutes later when she rifled a shot goal-bound but Nayler produced a fine save.
The Ferns went into the sheds in Pinatar 1-0 down on the scoresheet but they had competed well for long periods. At half-time, Heraf made three changes with Anna Green coming on for CJ Bott, Elizabeth Anton for Katie Bowen, and Hannah Wilkinson took Annalie Longo’s place.
Scotland picked up from where they left off before the break. Midfielder Erin Cuthbert crossed well for Lisa Evans who hit a good header, but it was just wide of the target.
The Ferns came back into the game and could have easily been back on level terms when substitute Green hit a powerful shot on the back of an Olivia Chance corner which hammered into the crossbar.
The white shirts continued to pour forward and Amber Hearn had a great chance to level the scores in the 74th minute. New Zealand’s prolific striker, with 54 goals in A internationals to her name, hit a strong shot from inside the box but was denied by an impressive save from Scotland’s keeper Lee Alexander. It was New Zealand’s best period in the match.
Just as the Football Ferns got back into the match, and looked the more likely of the two teams to score, Scotland doubled their lead after 78 minutes. The Ferns defence turned the ball over and Scotland midfielder Cuthbert again teed up Lisa Evans to finish down the middle of the goal. It was the defining strike of the game.
Katie Rood came on in the final 10 minutes, in place of Sarah Gregorius in her first match back from international retirement, to earn her third international cap for New Zealand.
The Football Ferns will look to bounce back in the second international friendly against Scotland on Tuesday night (NZT) at the same venue.
International Friendly – Result:
New Zealand 0 Scotland 2 (Jane Ross 34’, Lisa Evans 78’) HT 0-1
Football Ferns: 1. Erin Nayler, 2. Ria Percival, 4. CJ Bott (3. Anna Green 45’), 5. Meikayla Moore, 6. Rebekah Stott, 7. Ali Riley, 9. Amber Hearn, 10. Annalie Longo (17. Hannah Wilkinson 45’), 11. Sarah Gregorius (22. Katie Rood 82’), 14. Katie Bowen (25. Elizabeth Anton 45’), 16. Olivia Chance
Coach Andreas Heraf
Substitutes not used: 12. Betsy Hassett, 19. Abby Erceg, 20. Malia Steinmetz, 21. Anna Leat, , 23. Victoria Esson, 27. Stephanie Skilton, 29. Emma Rolston
Football Ferns v Scotland international friendlies
Tuesday 6 March local kick off 11.00am (NZT Tuesday 6 March 11:00pm)
Pinatar Football Arena in San Pedro del Pinatar, Spain