Including stoppage time, the Football Ferns have now played nine hours of international football since they last scored a goal.
And their lack of edge in front of goal proved costly at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium when Argentina beat them 1-0 in a game with few chances, plenty of fouls and no shortage of individual effort.
Both sides showed aggression, with 24 fouls shared between them and four yellow cards.
But it’s goals that decide matches, and the Ferns have now played six goalless games since Paige Satchell scored their last goal, against South Korea in November.
Main photo: New Zealand defenders Meikayla Moore (left) and Claudia Bunge show their disappointment at the final whistle. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Riley, Bott and Chance not available
The Ferns were forced to make changes to their starting line-up with the unavailability of captain Ali Riley and defender CJ Bott, both with minor injuries, the departure of midfielder Olivia Chance who returned to her Scottish club Celtic, by prior agreement.
Midfielder Betsy Hassett was named captain — the third Ferns captain of the three-match series — to mark her 141st full international.
Hassett was to prove to be inspirational, leading the team with a hardworking, spirited display which included battling on after a five-minute hold-up to treat a cut, received when she was bowled over by a over-harsh tackle.
In the first half, both teams set a hot pace, pressing each other and going hard into tackles from the start.
It made for entertaining, end-to-end football for the North Harbour Stadium crowd of 3,914.
Trouble was the amount of enterprise and effort was not rewarded by scoring opportunities, let alone goals.
New Zealand’s best chance of the half came when Gabi Rennie found Hannah Wilkinson with a pin-point cross but the Melbourne City striker steered the ball wide of the net.
(New Zealand / Argentina)
Shots: 5 / 4
Shots on target: 2 / 0
Possession: 44% / 56%
Passes: 219 / 293
Pass accuracy: 76% / 82%
Fouls: 6 / 6
Yellow cards: 1 / 0
Offsides: 0 / 2
Corners: 4 / 2
Coach Jitka Klimková showed her intent by bringing on the speedy Paige Satchell for the second half, and in the 61st minute, Grace Jale crossed to the substitute who couldn’t control and shoot and half-chance was gone.
After an hour, New Zealand looked capable of breaking their seven-match winless streak.
But the flow of the game was disrupted, to Argentina’s advantage.
The Ferns worked their bench and while it gave players game time, it meant the team was constantly settling into new patterns.
By comparison, Argentina were sparing in the use of their subs and they gradually became more dominant.
A few tough tackles by the visitors also helped disrupt, none more so than the crunching blow dealt to Hassett who was treated on the pitch for five minutes before being allowed to continue.
Argentina got the match winner in the 77th minute when Mariana Larroquette, who also scored against the Ferns in Hamilton, broke through and went past goalkeeper Erin Nayler.
She shot from a tight angle, and Nayler and a desperate Claudia Bunge both threw themselves in front of the ball, but it deflected off Bunge and into the net.
As the game entered stoppage time, New Zealand won a free kick outside the area.
Set piece specialist Michaela Foster took responsibility and curled a hard, low shot around the defensive wall but into the arms of goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros.
Eight minutes of stoppage time gave New Zealand the chance to push forward in search of an equaliser but it never looked likely.
The three-match series with Portugal and Argentina was arranged to replicate pool play at the World Cup.
The Ferns lost all three games; conceded eight goals and scored none.
Full match statistics
(New Zealand / Argentina)
Shots: 7 / 7
Shots on target: 2 / 3
Possession: 42% / 58%
Passes: 391 / 541
Pass accuracy: 68% / 75%
Fouls: 13 / 11
Yellow cards: 2 /2
Offsides: 0 /3
Corners: 5 / 3
Game played on Thursday February 23, 2023
New Zealand 0
Argentina 1 (Mariana Larroquette 77′)
Erin Nayler, Claudia Bunge, Meikayla Moore, Katie Bowen (Michaela Foster 84′), Grace Neville, Malia Steinmetz (Kate Taylor 57′), Daisy Cleverley (Ava Collins 79′), Gabi Rennie (Paige Satchell 46′), Grace Jale, Betsy Hassett, Hannah Wilkinson (Indiah Paige-Riley 79′).
Subs not used: Mackenzie Barry, Liz Anton, Brianna Edwards, Murphy Sheaff.
Head coach: Jitka Klimková.
Moore (5′), Bunge (81′)
Laurina Oliveros, Eliana Stabile, Julieta Cruz, Adana Cornetti, Romina Nuñez, Falfan Daiana, Paulina Gramaglia (Marcel Pereyra 87′), Miriam Mayorga, Maria Bonsegundo (Érica Lonigro 74′), Lorena Benitez (Chiara Singarella 87′), Mariana Larroquette.
Subs not used: Vanina Correa (GK), Vanessa Santana, Gabriela Chavez, Marianela Szymanowsk, Érica Lonigro, Estefania Banini.
Head coach: German Portanova.
Nunez (57′), Larroquette (66′)
Referee: Tatiana Guzmán (Nicaragua)
Assistant 1: Shirley Perello (Honduras)
Assistant 2: Sandra Ramírez (Mexico)
4th referee: Casey Reibelt (Australia)
VAR: Shaun Evans (Australia)
AVAR: Joanna Chakartis (Australia)
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