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NZ in scoreless draw with New Caledonia

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 14/11/2016

The All Whites have solidified a strong position in their Oceania World Cup qualifying group with a testing and sometimes bitter scoreless draw against New Caledonia.

Following Saturday's 2-0 win in Auckland, New Zealand hold the upper hand early in the third-round group although they were far from dominant in the return match in Kone.

New Caledonia held the upper hand through the middle stages of the match at the tiny Stade Yoshida venue, creating a swag of decent chances.

However, none was converted, leaving Les Cagous with a tough road to advance as the winners of the three-nation group.

The actions of captain Bertrand Kai also left a sour taste, with the captain shown a red card for a blatant head butt on Ryan Thomas seven minutes from time.

Tempers frayed over the closing stages as heavy rain arrived.

New Zealand's next fixtures are home and away against Fiji in March, when they will hope to maintain their defensive record but display better finishing than they managed on Tuesday.

An All Whites team, featuring five starting changes from the Auckland game, couldn't convert their two clearest chances which both fell early on.

Kip Colvey's cross was met with a close-range header from captain Chris Wood but the Leeds' striker was denied by a reaction save from Thomas Schmidt.

Moments later, the ball fell to Monty Patterson who blew a clear chance directly in front of goal, scuffing his shot wide.

New Caledonia, who haven't beaten New Zealand at home since 1972, began to make an impression with their pace and physicality in the muggy conditions.

Thrusting runs from Cesar Zeoula and Georges Gope-Fenepej became a constant threat, with All Whites stopper Stefan Marinovic called into action several times.

The closest the hosts came to scoring was in the 70th minute when Zeoula's deflected shot was prevented from crossing the line in spectacular fashion by substitute defender Bill Tuiloma.

New Zealand coach Anthony Hudson chose to restore Colvey and Michael Boxall after both missed the Auckland clash through suspension.

They replaced Deklan Wynne and Themi Tzimopoulos, while a third change at the back was the introduction of Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi for Tuiloma.

Up front, Patterson started ahead of Kosta Barbarouses, while Dyer replaced Clayton Lewis in the midfield.

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