Socceroos demolish New Zealand
GIFTED three goals, Australia cruised to victory over a jet-lagged New Zealand team on a slippery Adelaide Oval last night.
While the margin was, in the end, decisive enough, there were aspects of his team's effort All Whites coach Ricki Herbert would be happy enough with - finishing in the opposing penalty area not being one of them.
Sadly, there was an all-too-familiar ring to the opening exchanges. Not for the first time in transtasman internationals, the All Whites gave up an early goal and immediately were forced to play catch-up.
It was always going to be a huge ask for Herbert's travel-wearied players and handing that advantage to the home side inside 10 minutes only compounded their woes.
While fingers might have been pointed at Jeremy "Mr Fixit" Brockie - forced to play an unfamiliar left-back role - for an under-weighted back-pass, it was goalkeeper Glen Moss, opting for a soft first touch rather than a whoosh into the stand, who was stranded as Josh Kennedy walked around him and pushed the ball into the gaping goal.
Encouraged to build on that early success, the Socceroos lifted their game and asked questions of the makeshift All Whites.
After an early shot from James Troisi and another from their vastly experienced captain Brett Emerton which whistled wide of Moss' castle, the New Zealanders settled, picked up their game and started to ask questions at the other end of the Oval.
Both teams struggled with their footing on the cricket block which led to much turnover ball in midfield. New Zealand profited from those opportunities to the extent of forcing three corners, but those, and a couple of attacking free kicks, were wasted by poor set-piece delivery.
Shane Smeltz, playing an attacking midfield role in front of Tim Brown, Michael McGlinchey and Kosta Barbarouses, won his share of ball and came closest to grabbing the equaliser when he had a well-angled Brockie cross picked off his head by Australian goalkeeper Nathan Coe.
Then, hoping to get quickly back on terms as the rain started to lash down in the second half, the All Whites handed the hosts a second when Kennedy charged unchallenged through a flat-footed defence at a corner to crash a header away from Moss for 2-0.
With knocks to McGlinchey and Andy Boyens - adding to the already dozen-plus injury list - Herbert was forced to his bench early in the second half with Michael Fitzgerald in for Boyens and Marco Rojas for McGlinchey.
With solid play from Ben Sigmund, Michael Boxall and Brockie at the back and the lively Rojas in midfield, the All Whites asked questions of the home side, but that promise was snuffed out by ineffectual finishing which rarely threatened to bridge the gap.
It was little surprise the scoring was completed two minutes into stoppage time when out-on-his feet Ben Sigmund clipped Robbie Kruse and Troisi stepped forward to whip home from the spot giving debutante goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, on for Moss with 15 minutes to play, no chance.