A defensive mix-up has given Peru a 1-0 win and provided New Zealand with the harsh lesson it needed from their international friendly in Barcelona.
The lesson was simple — at this level of international football, games can turn on a single moment.
Goalkeeper Oli Sail and defender Tim Payne combined for a mistake in the 69th minute of the match, gifting Peru a goal in a contest that till then had kept them contained.
No doubt, the All Whites will heed that lesson and coach Danny Hay can take plenty of positives into preparation for next week’s FIFA World Cup play-off against Costa Rica,
In terms of fitness and work rate, New Zealand looked at home in the Barcelona climate (26-degree heat and 60% humidity), and the heat generated by more than 30,000 Peru fans.
Striker Chris Wood got through his 70-minute shift with no apparent signs of the Achilles niggle that had required treatment in the build-up.
Importantly, New Zealand never looked in awe of the side 22nd in the FIFA world rankings. They were positive when in possession and worked hard to put Peru under pressure when the South Americans had the ball.
Coach Danny Hay had said before the game his starting line-up would not necessarily be a shadow side for the World Cup play-off.
Despite that, the team that set for the kick-off looked more than capable of being the favoured selection.
The All Whites lined up 3–1–4–2.
Goalkeeper: Oli Sail.
Back three: Tommy Smith, Winston Reid (captain), Bill Tuiloma.
Holding midfielder: Joe Bell.
Midfield: Libby Cacace, Matthew Garbett, Marko Stamenic, Niko Kirwan.
Forwards: Chris Wood, Alex Greive.
Peru had the first chance of the game after only four minutes when Gianluca Lapadula exploited space on the right flank and was able to cross low into the New Zealand box, but no one was there to meet the ball.
From the start, New Zealand pressed when Peru had possession, hustling their opponents into mistakes.
In possession, the All Whites looked confident on the ball and pushed Cacace and Kirwan high and wide.
In the middle, Garbett was lively and working well with Greive who was always willing to drop deep in search of the ball.
Up front, Wood showed no signs of the Achilles niggle that had required treatment in the lead-up to the match.
Midway through the first half, Peru had their first shot on target when Sail was forced to turn a cross-turned-shot over the bar for a corner.
From the corner, Yoshima Yotún smacked a shot off the New Zealand crossbar from the edge of the area.
With half-time three minutes away, the All Whites created their first chance.
Garbett played the ball to Wood who provided the ball in space for Greive to strike from 20 metres, forcing a save from ‘keeper Pedro Gallese.
Half-time: Peru 0, New Zealand 0
First half stats
Possession: Peru 69%, New Zealand 31%
Shots: Peru 2, New Zealand 1
Shots on target: Peru 1, New Zealand 1
Passes: Peru 342, New Zealand 160
Pass accuracy: Peru 89%, New Zealand 75%
Fouls: Peru 7, New Zealand 10
Hay made two changes at the start of the second half, replacing Smith with Nando Pijnaker and bringing on Clayton Lewis for Marco Stamenic.
Peru had the better of the half’s opening stages, looking to get crosses into the box.
After 65 minutes, both sides made substitutions, with Hay introducing Tim Payne and taking off Bill Tuiloma who had been playing since the 13th minute with a yellow card.
Payne and Sail then fell foul to pressure, making the mistake that provided Peru with their goal.
Sail had easily dealt with a long ball, turning it wide to Payne.
Put under pressure, Payne laid it back to Sail but put too much weight on the pass, and Sail failed to control it.
Lapadula stole the ball and to Sail’s horror, tapped the ball into the empty net.
In the 70th minute, New Zealand rested the Wood/Greive partnership, bringing on Kosta Barbarouses and Ben Waine.
Peru almost scored again when substitute Christofer Gonzáles hit the post.
New Zealand got the ball into the net after 77 minutes when Cacace played a pass across the face of the Peru goal for Waine to turn into the goal. But Waine had drifted offside in reaching the cross.
With 10 minutes to go, Hay completed the replacement of his back three, resting captain Reid and bringing on Michael Boxall.
New Zealand showed urgency in the final stages, looking to break fast and treating the friendly as a rehearsal for the play-off in which there are no prizes for losing by only one goal.
Cacace created a late chance, forcing a save from Gallese with two minutes to go.
The All Whites threw everyone forward at the end, winning their first corner of the game in added time.
But they couldn’t find a way through and Peru got their win.
For New Zealand, the result will matter little as long as the lessons learned help the cause next week when the All Whites meet Costa Rica.
At the post-match media conference, coach Hay said the New Zealand camp had learned much from the game and his squad had benefitted from playing in front of a crowd for the first time since late 2019.
He said it had taken a while for his team to get over the ‘fear factor’ and to settle into their own game, and he was more pleased with the second-half performance than the first.
Full game stats
Possession: Peru 63%, New Zealand 37%
Shots: Peru 8, New Zealand 2
Shots on target: Peru 2, New Zealand 2
Passes: Peru 641, New Zealand 383
Pass accuracy: Peru 86%, New Zealand 78%
Fouls: Peru 11, New Zealand 20
Peru 1, New Zealand 0
RCDE Stadium, Barcelona
Attendance: 32, 148