Soccer: All Whites battle to draw with El Salvador

By Michael Brown

New Zeland's Ian Hogg, left, gets a hug from Kosta Barbarouses after he scored a goal during the first half of an international friendly soccer game against El Salvador. Photo / AP
New Zeland's Ian Hogg, left, gets a hug from Kosta Barbarouses after he scored a goal during the first half of an international friendly soccer game against El Salvador. Photo / AP

New Zealand 2
El Salvador 2

Ian Hogg will always remember his international debut after scoring in the 2-2 draw against El Salvador in Houston today.

The Auckland City defender rifled in a first-half strike to level the match 1-1 and looked comfortable on the international stage. Encouragingly, he wasn't the only one.

A lot more New Zealand footballers look more at home in international football and it's breeding considerable optimism for the future. Hogg was the only starting debutant but coach Ricki Herbert also brought on 17-year-old Cameron Howieson for the last 20 minutes.

Eleven of the matchday 19 were under the age of 25 and Tommy Smith, still only 22, became the youngest captain in All Whites history.

A 2-2 draw was a good result for the All Whites, although they will probably feel they could have won it.

They looked sharp for most of the match, even with a severely weakened side without the likes of Ryan Nelsen, Winston Reid and Chris Killen, and created a number of very good chances.

They often threatened El Salvador's goal and might have had a couple of more - Kosta Barbarouses and Shane Smeltz both had one-one-one opportunities saved and Marco Rojas also hit an upright - but the encouraging thing is the All Whites are creating chances.

In years gone by they often relied on smash-and-grab raids and the hope they could somehow keep opposition teams out.

Barbarouses scored an excellent second, when he slotted home after Smeltz' first-time shot was well saved, and the young striker was often heavily involved in New Zealand's attacking raids.

The goals they conceded were unlucky. The first, well finished by Rafael Burgos in the 14th minute when he beat Mark Paston to the ball just outside the box, looked suspiciously like offside and the second was an own goal to Michael Boxall when Burgos' close-range cross was deflected in off Boxall's knee.

El Salvador had their moments and were the better side in the closing stages as the heat seemed to take its toll on a number of All Whites who haven't played for some time.

They were quick and skilful and moved the ball swiftly but they also looked vulnerable at times as they gave the ball away in bad areas. The rankings certainly don't give an indication of how closely matched the two teams were - El Salvador are 49th and New Zealand a lowly but misrepresentative 130.

There's every chance New Zealand will meet El Salvador again in a couple of years' time when the stakes will be significantly higher. The Oceania winners will play the fourth-placed side from Concacaf for a spot in Brazil in 2014 and the All Whites will feel pretty good of their chances if that happens to be against El Salvador.

New Zealand round out the American part of their tour with a game against Honduras on Sunday before they head to the Solomon Islands for the Oceania Nations Cup, which is the first phase of the World Cup qualifiers.

New Zealand 2 (Ian Hogg 27, Kosta Barbarouses 64) El Salvador 2 (Rafael Burgos 14, Michael Boxall OG 56). HT: 1-1.

- APNZ

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