By Logan Smith
The All Whites had to play with 10 men for a third of their 0-0 draw with China after skipper Tommy Smith was sent off in his 50th appearance for his country.
Smith committed a professional foul in the 62nd minute to prevent a Chinese goalscoring opportunity but was given a straight red.
Main photo: Tommy Smith … ordered off in his 50th appearance.Photo: Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
In the first of two games under interim coach Darren Bazeley, the All Whites lined up in a 3-4-3 formation.
Oli Sail kept his place in goal, with the back three including Tommy Smith, Nando Pijnaker and Tim Payne. Alex Rufer and Marko Stamenic started in central midfield, with Liberato Cacace and Callan Elliot on the flanks.
Kosta Barbarouses, Matt Garbett and Max Mata were chosen as the starting front three.
The game started in a flurry at Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium, with both sides having offensive endeavours early.
Matt Garbett in the 5th minute, had the first shot, shooting wide of the far post from a narrow position on the left.
New Zealand soon took over the game, but China largely kept shooting chances outside the penalty area, with Marko Stamenic having a couple of chances bounce wide from this range.
China’s attacking forays were rare but more threatening. Wei Shihao curled a free kick just wide from a dangerous position in the 32nd minute. An excellent ball by Tim Payne set Kosta Barbarouses into space inside the box, but his quickly taken shot flashed wide of the left post.
China were happy to put many players behind the ball out of possession, letting New Zealand pass it around.
But in the 42nd minute, Wei Shihao capped off a fine move with a low shot that ‘keeper Sail did well to save.
At half-time, the scores were locked at 0-0.
China started the second half strongly, with Xu Xin wasting a breakaway chance with Oli Sail sprinting back to his line, and Wu Lei also enjoying a chance on the half-volley.
New Zealand had some half-chances too, and brought on Joe Bell and Elijah Just for Matt Garbett and Marko Stamenic.
Then in the 62nd minute, confusion between Smith and Sail led to Wu Lei getting through on goal. Smith fouled Wu Lei and prevented the chance, but was sent off.
Despite being down to ten, New Zealand had a good chance soon after. Kosta Barbarouses looked ready to shoot inside China’s penalty area but was dispossessed by a brilliant sliding challenge from Wei Shen.
For the rest of the game, China dominated possession and territory, and began to pepper the New Zealand goal.
Clayton Lewis and Alex Greive came on in the 72nd minute to replace Max Mata and Barbarouses, but were to have scant involvement at the offensive end of the pitch.
Chinese substitute forward Lin Liangming had a point-blank chance to score with his head, but somehow put his effort wide, sparing New Zealand’s inability to mark him.
In the 83rd minute, Dane Ingham and Michael Boxall came in as defensive reinforcements, replacing Callan Elliot and Tim Payne.
China continued to attack and test Sail, but the New Zealanders held out until the final whistle, with the final scoreline 0-0.
Darren Bazeley’s reaction
READ MORE: Coach Darren Bazeley: ‘We showed team spirit and a lot of resilience’ >>>>
Match stats (New Zealand / China)
Shots: 5 / 14
Shots on target: 2 / 8
Possession: 58% / 42%
Passes: 501 / 360
Pass accuracy: 88% / 85%
Fouls: 12 / 8
Offsides: 0 / 1
Corners: 7 / 5
Game played on Thursday March 23, 2023
New Zealand 0
Oli Sail, Tim Payne (Michael Boxall 83′), Tommy Smith (c), Nando Pijnaker, Callan Elliot (Dane Ingham 83′,) Alex Rufer, Marko Stamenic (Joe Bell 57′), Libby Cacace, Kosta Barbarouses (Alex Greive 72′), Max Mata, Matthew Garbett (Elijah Just 57′).
J. Yan, L. Zhang, W.Zhen, Z.Chenjie, Y.Liu, B. Liu (L.Lin 66′), X. Xu, X. Wu (c) (S.Wang 78′), S.Wei (H.Deng 66′), L. Wu (P. Xie 78′), L. Tan (P.Chen 45′).
Games to be played on Sunday March 26, 2023
New Zealand U-22 v China PR
Sky Stadium, Wellington, 12.30pm (NZT)
All Whites v China PR
Sky Stadium, Wellington, 4pm (NZT)
Tickets are available from $20 to $80 (adult) and $10 to $40 (children aged 2-14).
Logan Smith is a passionate football fan and volunteer, based in Dunedin, covering the Southern League.