Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Football: All Whites too good for Fiji

Marco Rojas of New Zealand. Photo / Getty
Marco Rojas of New Zealand. Photo / Getty

The All Whites have continued their serene progress in the Oceania Stage Three World Cup qualifying, with an efficient 2-0 win over Fiji today.

It was a clinical display from the New Zealand side, who dominated the match throughout.

Both their goals came from awful Fijian defensive blunders, not that that will bother Anthony Hudson's men in the slightest.

A penalty from Chris Wood early in the second half - after a calamitous handball inside the area by a Fiji defender - gave New Zealand some breathing space, after they had failed to convert several chances in the first half.

Marco Rojas sealed the result in the 55th minute, stroking the ball into an empty net after he had dispossessed the dallying Fiji goalkeeper outside his area.

There will be much greater tests to come for the All Whites in 2017, as the Fijian side looked disorganised at the back and struggled to utilise the pace and skill of Roy Krishna, but the result continues New Zealand's unbeaten run against Oceania sides under Hudson.

The three points gained mean a draw in the return match in Wellington on Tuesday evening will seal the All Whites' passage to the next phase, an Oceania final playoff in September.

In the first half Rojas had the ball in the net in the 32nd minute, after some incisive passing on the edge of the area, but the Melbourne Victory striker was judged offside.

It was a tight call, but looked the correct one.

Rojas was a constant menace, while Wood looked in confident touch off the back of his recent Leeds exploits. Clayton Lewis had the All Whites' first opportunity, with a stinging shot from outside the area in the 13th minute which was turned away well by the Fijian keeper.

After barely doing anything on attack in the first period - Fiji only ventured into the New Zealand half twice in the first 25 minutes - the home side came into the match in the 10 minutes before halftime.

They put the All Whites under some pressure near their own area, and only a superb Themi Tzimopoulos covering tackle prevented a Fiji goal after a swift counter attack.

Tommy Smith wasn't included in the starting XI in his return to international football, with the Ipswich defender coming on as a late replacement in the second half.

- NZ Herald

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