New Zealand will head to Lima with their FIFA World Cup qualification hopes very much in tact after a goalless draw against Peru in the first leg of the Intercontinental Play-off in Wellington on Saturday afternoon.
The teams will now head to Lima for the return leg on Wednesday (local time) with the Oceania champions hoping for a draw or better to claim what will be the final ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Playing in front of a 37,034 strong crowd, a new record for a football match in New Zealand, the All Whites lined up without talismanic striker Chris Wood, who was kept in reserve on the bench due to a recent hamstring injury sustained while playing for Burnley.
Admitting he would’ve taken the result if offered it before the match, New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson said his side’s feet were firmly on the ground at the halfway point of the tie.
“We are pleased with the performance,” said Anthony Hudson, “and personally, and I know all the players and I think everyone here should be proud of the players – it’s an incredibly good result for us.
“However, But we are not in a postion to settle for that. We’ve not achieved anything.
“The mindset is we’ve not achieved anything. We want to go to Russia.”
Speaking through assiatnt coach Noberto Solano as his translator, Peru coach Ricardo Gareca said he was also satisfied with the result.
“We played very well but part of the game was very tough,” Gareca said.
“We played a good side today who were well organised . They sat back and waited for us because we had control of the match but in general, I’m very happy with the performance.
“It’s not a bad result and it’s not simple to come to New Zealand and get a draw.”
A cagey affair was shaded by Peru and punctuated by very few clear chances especially in the first half but the match opened up midway through the second spell as first Peru asserted themselves and then New Zealand found another gear, bouyed by the introduction of Wood for the final 16 minutes.
New Zealand’s Stefan Marinovic was the first goalkeper to be tested just seven minutes in, but the chance was partly of his own making with a mix-up between himself and captain Winston Reid allowing Jefferson Farfan to get a toe in and poke the ball goalward. Marinovic quickly scrambled back from the penalty spot and clawed the ball off his line.
A Farfan header flashed narrowly wide in the 16th minute and three minutes later with space on the edge of the area Christian Cuerva lofted a shot well over the bar.
New Zealand had their moments too with Kosta Barbarouses curled a shot across the face of goal after getting in behind the Peruvian defence midway through the half.
The All Whites defence – anchored by an impressive Winston Reid and ably supported by Michael Boxall and Tommy Smith, with young wing backs Deklan Wynne and Kip Colvey alo putting in mature shifts in the biggest challenge of their budding careers – stood firm as Peru looked to up the pressure after the break.
Marinovic was called into action twice in quick succession with a sharp save required from Farfan’s bullet header in the 64th minute.
But with the crowd and the team lifting as Wood entered the match and gave the All Whites more of a physical presence in the final third, New Zealand went close to taking a lead omn the plane to South America.
With seven minutes left in normal time, Barbarouses flashed a long range effort wide and in the 86th minute a blistering Ryan Thomas effort shaved the outside of Pedro Gallese’s post in the All Whites’ best chance.
The return leg in Lima kicks off at 9.15pm (local time) on Wednesday (Thursday 3.15 NZST) at Estadio nacional de Lima, Peru.
FIFA World Cup Intercontinental Playoff – First leg
Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand
Saturday 11 November
New Zealand 0
New Zealand: 1. Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 2. Winston REID (c), 3. Deklan WYNNE, 5. Michael BOXALL, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Michael McGLINCHEY, 11. Marco ROJAS (6. Bill TUILOMA 78’), 14. Ryan THOMAS, 15. Clayton LEWIS (9. Chris WOOD 74’), 18. Kip COLVEY, 20. Tommy SMITH (22. Andrew DURANTE 67’)
Substitutes not used: 4. Themi TZIMOPOULOS, 10. Shane SMELTZ, 12. Glen MOSS (RGK), 13. Monty PATTERSON, 16. Dane INGHAM, 17. Jeremy BROCKIE, 19. Rory FALLON, 21. Storm ROUX, 23. Max CROCOMBE (RGK)
Coach: Anthony HUDSON (ENG)
Cautions: 8. Michael McGLINCHEY 68’, 5. Michael BOXALL 75’
Peru: 1. Pedro GALLESE (GK), 2. Alberto RODRÍGUEZ (c), 3. Aldo CORZO, 6. Miguel TRAUCO, 8. Christian CUEVA, 10. Jefferson FARFAN, 13. Renato TAPIA, 15. Christian RAMOS, 18. André CARRILLO (7. Paulo HURTADO 77’), 19. Yoshimar YOTÚN (23. Pedro AQUINO 88’), 20. Edison FLORES
Substitutes not used: 4. Anderson SANTAMARIA, 5. Adrian ZELA, 9. Yordy REINA, 11. Raúl RUIDÍAZ, 12. Carlos CÁCEDA (RGK), 14. Andy POLO, 16. Wilder CARTAGENA, 17. Luis ADVÍNCULA, 21. José CARVALLO (RGK), 22. Nilson LOYOLA
Coach: Ricardo GARECA (ARG)
Cautions: 19. Yoshimar YOTÚN 24’