8 Jun 2016

Goal keeping blunder helps All Whites into OFC final

8:30 pm on 8 June 2016

A goal keeping blunder has helped New Zealand into the Oceania Nations Cup football final, as the All Whites beat New Caledonia one-nil in the semi final in Papua New Guinea tonight.

The match never reached any great height with New Zealand's game plan based around set pieces and looking to play the ball aerially as they had a distinct height advantage over the New Caledonians.

However it didn't work particularly well for New Zealand and while both teams had scoring opportunities in the first half neither was able to score, with the game deadlocked at nil-all at halftime.

All Whites captain Chris Wood celebrates his goal against New Caledonia.

All Whites captain Chris Wood celebrates his goal against New Caledonia. Photo: Photosport

The All Whites defender Themi Tzimopoulos was lucky to escape a yellow card when he brought down New Caledonia striker Jean-Phillipe Saiko just outside the penalty area but referee ruled the challenge okay.

New Zealand's skill levels were poor at times, easily turning over posession, giving New Caledonia the chance to counter-attack.

As the first half unfolded the All Whites appeared to get more and more frustrated not only with themselves but also some of the referee's rulings with striker and captain Chris Wood called up several times for his physical marking.

In a bid to develop a better link between the midfield and the front line, coach Anthony Hudson brought Monty Patterson on to replace Luka Prelevic at the break.

The deciding moment came early in the second half New Zealand was awarded a free kick midway halfway and the New Caledonia goal box.

With a stiff breeze at his back Wood opted for a shot on goal.

New Caledonia keeper Jelen Ixoee got himself in line, but only casually tried to catch the ball which burst through his hands and into the goal, much to the horror of his teamates and the delight of the All Whites.

At the other end of the All Whites keeper Stefan Marinovic had a strong game, positioning himself well throughout and making a top save when he blocked a shot from New Caledonia's Jefferson Dahite inside the six yard box.

New Caledonia were certainly the more creative of the two sides particularly in the second half and were much more productive in the shots on goal department, outnumbering New Zealand's 23-8.

Posession wise New Caledonia also enjoyed a superior ratio - with 63 percent posession compared to New Zealand's 37 percent.

New Caledonia briefly thought they had scored the equaliser when they managed to get the ball in the back of the net with about quarter of an hour to play only for the referee to rule All Whites keeper Marinovic had been taken out of play.

The win dims the pain of the 2012 loss to New Caledonia at same stage of the tournament and puts New Zealand into their first Oceania Nations cup final since 2002.

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