New Caledonia 0
New Zealand 0
The All Whites have emerged with the point they needed from an entertaining 0-0 stalemate with New Caledonia in Kone.
The draw, combined with New Zealand's 2-0 win over New Caledonia in Auckland on Saturday, means the All Whites now just need four points from their next two games against Fiji in March to progress to the next stage of Oceania qualification.
It was an exciting, and at times bizarre game, played in slippery, wet conditions with action flowing from end to end but with a lack of quality in the attacking thirds.
New Zealand's performance wasn't as ugly as their gritty OFC Nations Cup performances in Papua New Guinea, or as polished as their possession-based, high press game they employed so well against USA and Mexico in October.
But it was safety first, and by the end New Zealand was trying not to lose more than they were trying to win. The feisty affair boiled over in the 83rd minute as the hosts were desperately pushing for a win, when New Caledonia captain Bertrand Kai was shown a red card for head-butting Ryan Thomas off the ball.
New Caledonia needed three points to realistically keep their qualification hopes alive and dominated New Zealand for large periods of the game, creating more chances. And despite starting as $9-1 outsiders with the bookies, looked the more likely side to win.
But New Zealand did have the best chance of the match, when Monty Patterson hit a slow moving ball from six yards straight at the legs of the New Caledonian goalkeeper under no pressure, after Andrew Durante squared a deflected cross in the first half.
NZ made five changes from the side that won 2-0 in Auckland with Michael Boxall, Patterson, Kip Colvey, Moses Dyer and Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi replacing Themi Tzimopoulos, Bill Tuiloma, Deklan Wynne, Clayton Lewis and Kosta Barbarouses.
The All Whites started in a 4-4-2 formation, using a direct approach, but brought Tuiloma and Barbarouses off the bench to replace Hudson-Wihongi and Patterson shortly after halftime, injecting more pace and guile into the attack. Tuiloma also saved a certain goal late in the game, acrobatically clearing a goal bound ball with a bicycle kick on the line.
The match had the look and feel of a national league fixture in New Zealand, with a small, enthused crowd of under 1000 increasingly voicing their enthusiasm as the match fizzed from end to end, but with a lack of final product.
The game begun in bizarre fashion with Wood taking a shot from the kickoff, and New Caledonia continued the theme of goalkeeper disrespect with two shots from near halfway in the first half, when there were plenty of better options available.
Thomas had some nice touches in midfield for New Zealand while Durante and Boxall stood solid in defence. Chris Wood didn't get the service he needed to show his quality in the box.
With the draw New Zealand remain in control of their destiny, able to assure passage to the next stage of World Cup qualifying with four points from their next two matches against Fiji in March.
It will be a busy year for New Zealand with the Fiji games followed by the Confederations Cup in June, then potentially a home and away OFC final then a playoff against the fifth ranked South American side.