Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: All Whites impress in defeat against Mexico

Mexico 2 New Zealand 1

The All Whites have gone down to the highly rated Mexican side, but not in the manner many would have expected.

New Zealand gave Mexico a real scare, drawing level soon after halftime before eventually losing 2-1 to the world No15 ranked team.

Marco Rojas equalized for the All Whites in the 46th minute, capping a well worked team move, after Mexico had taken the lead through a slightly fortuitous penalty midway through the first spell.

The visitors then enjoyed their best period of the match for the next 10 minutes, as their confidence surged following their goal.

But El Tri, who were playing in their 12th match of 2016, regained the initiative with a delightful goal through Bundesliga-based Marco Fabian in the 56th minute. That settled the North American side, and the capacity Nashville crowd, as both coaches made a slew of changes.

It was an encouraging performance from the All Whites, as the Oceania champions came up with periods of impressive attacking play and used their high pressing game to good effect, especially in the first half.

The contrast between this match and other encounters with Mexico in recent years was stark; in previous games, especially in the ill-fated 2013 World Cup Intercontinental playoffs, New Zealand struggled to live with the pace and movement of the Mexicans. They spent most of those matches in pure survival mode, camped deep in their own half, with every man behind the ball.

Granted, Mexico had not selected most of their European based players for this match, but their depth means any team playing under the red, green and white flag will be a strong side.

Mexico made a strong start to the match, creating several opportunities, but were lucky to take the lead in the 27th minute. Former Barcelona player Giovani dos Santos converted the spot kick, after the referee found a penalty when winger Hirving Lozano fell in the area from minimal contact.

Earlier Rojas spurned a golden chance in the 16th minute, the kind of moment that can change a game. The Melbourne Victory forward latched on to a loose Mexican pass and glided towards the penalty area. He dribbled past two defenders with outstanding skill, but couldn't beat the goal keeper from 12 yards, scuffing the shot when a crisp strike to either corner would've have given the All Whites a shock lead.

Rojas made amends one minute after halftime, sliding home a perfect Deklan Wynne cross after the vision of Chris Wood had sent the fullback away. The All Whites achieved parity for around 10 minutes in their best spell of the match, before a goal of exquisite class from Mexico as swift passing on the edge of the penalty area opened up the New Zealand defence before Fabian applied a clinical finish.

Mexico 2 (G. dos Santos, M. Fabian)
All Whites 1 (M. Rojas)
Halftime: 1-0

- NZ Herald

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