Two goals against Fiji have given striker Chris Wood the all-time goalscoring record for New Zealand and helped his side to a semi-final spot at the Oceania FIFA World Cup qualifying tournament in Qatar.
Wood scored goals in the 45th and 73rd minutes to go past Vaughan Coveny as New Zealand’s most prolific scorer, while substitute Elijah Just and midfielder Clayton Lewis inflicted more pain on Fiji as the Kiwis cruised to a 4-0 win.
The win gives New Zealand six points in Group B and ensures them of a semi-final spot next week, regardless of what happens in their final game on Friday against New Caledonia.
Head coach Danny Hay made seven changes to his starting line-up, resting players involved in the 1-0 against Papua New Guinea and bringing in fresh legs and, most notably, star striker Wood.
In the opening quarter, New Zealand tested Fiji with high balls into the box, quickly showing they had the advantage in the air with Wood and others looking dangerous, especially from set-pieces.
Like they did against PNG, New Zealand exploited the flanks, with Kosta Barbarouses and Niko Kirwan combining well on the right.
Fiji were enthusiastic and well organised for a while.
The All Whites, again playing in their all black strip, could not break through, though Wood had three clear chances with a header, a shot and a scramble near the goal line.
With half-time almost ready to provide relief for a tiring Fiji, New Zealand struck when Wood got on the end of a cross, heading it over stranded goalkeeper Mohammed Alam.
Just scores his first for All Whites — and Wood gets his 30th
In the second half, Fiji were forced to chase the game and this created more chances for the New Zealanders.
In the 64th minute, Barbarouses missed a clear chance when he back-heeled a Kirwan pass wide of the goal.
Hay made vital second-half substitutions, making use of his talented and youthful bench.
Just (21) doubled New Zealand’s lead in the 71st minute.
Fiji had failed to properly clear the danger of a New Zealand attack and when a hopeful shot rebounded off a defender, Just reacted quickly, spinning and steering the ball into the net for his first goal at full international level.
Two minutes later, Wood bore down on the Fiji goal and coolly found the net for his 30th, and record-breaking, goal.
He celebrated with team mates and subs warming up behind the goal.
Hay rewarded him with an early rest, subbing him to preserve his energies for later games in the tournament.
All the same, Wood must have rued the chance to have registered a hat-trick when New Zealand were awarded a penalty in added time after ‘keeper Alam dangerously raised a foot when collecting a cross.
With New Zealand’s usual penalty-taker off the field, Lewis stepped forward and calmly sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to make the final score a comfortable 4-0.
New Zealand’s superiority was demonstrated by its time in possession (57%) and the number of shots (16 of which seven were on target), compared to Fiji who managed only one shot on target, from three in the game.
New Zealand earned 8 corners, compared to Fiji’s 3, and committed 8 fouls to Fiji’s 13.
1 Oliver SAIL GK, 2 Winston REID (c), 3 Francis DE VRIES, 4 Nando PIJNAKER, 5 Tommy SMITH, 6 Clayton LEWIS, 7 Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9 Chris WOOD, 10 Marko STAMENIC 20 Niko KIRWAN, 21 Ben WAINE
Substitutions: 15 Matthew GOULD (GK), 23 Stefan MARINOVIC (GK), 8 Dalton WILKINS, 11 Joe CHAMPNESS, 12 Callum McCOWATT, 13 Dane INGHAM, 14 Andre DE JONG, 16 Nikko BOXALL, 17 Logan ROGERSON, 18 Cam HOWIESON, 19 Matt GARBETT, 22 Elijah JUST. Coach: Danny HAY
1 Mohammed ALAM (GK), 3 Muni Shivam NAIDU, 5 Remueru TEKIATE, 8 Setareki HUGHES, 9 Roy KRISHNA (c), 12 Tevita WARANAIVALU, 14 Sairusi NALAUBU, 16 Atonio TUIVUNA, 18 Lekima GONERAU, 20 Ashnil RAJU, 21 Kishan SAMI. Substitutions: 22 Isikeli SEVANAIA (GK), 23 Akuila MATEISUVA (GK), 2 Peter RAVITISAI, 4 Sitiveni CAVUILAGI, 6 Inoke TURAGALAILAI, 10 Nabil BEGG, 11 Edward AARON, 13 Rahul NARESH, 17 Patrick JOSEPH, 19 Afraz ALI. Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV
What happens next
New Zealand play winless New Caledonia on Friday (6am NZT) while Papua New Guinea meet Fiji.
Unless New Caledonia beat the All Whites by a large score, it’s probable New Zealand will top the group, regardless of the result of the other game.
Here’s how the all-time goalscoring table looks after Wood’s double against Fiji: