A first half red card to defender Ivan Vicelich left New Zealand football coach Ricki Herbert with mixed emotions after the All Whites' 3-1 win over Jordan in a friendly match in Amman early today (NZ time).
Herbert was happy to emerge with the win, given that his team played over half the game with 10 men, and conceded a goal inside the first two minutes.
Vicelich's red card, for deliberately handling in the area while the All Whites were hot on attack, left Herbert without the luxury of being able to experiment with different combinations as the match wore on.
It was New Zealand's last international warm-up ahead of their World Cup play-off series against Bahrain in Manama on October 10 and Wellington on November 14.
Bahrain drew their home match 0-0 against Saudi Arabia last Saturday, but got through on away goals with a 2-2 draw from today's return match in Riyadh after a equaliser four minutes into extra time.
Playing in their black away strip, the All Whites were 0-1 down after two minutes when goalkeeper Mark Paston misjudged an awkward bounce from a free kick.
A Shane Smeltz penalty at 15 minutes eased the tension, but it wasn't until a late looping header from Rory Fallon beat the keeper, shortly after Vicelich's red card, that New Zealand hit the front 2-1 at halftime.
With plenty of whistle as the game wore on, New Zealand had to show discipline and timing in the tackle, affording the Jordanian midfield more room than would normally be expected.
Smeltz widened the margin in the 65th minute, latching on to a pinpoint Leo Bertos ball into the area and some slack Jordanian defence to turn and slam the ball home.
Herbert was happy to take the win against a Jordan side he described as difficult, but was left rueing the lost opportunity to get a better look at his squad in action.
"It was a little disappointing that some decisions cost us having the team on the pitch for the full 90 minutes," Herbert said afterwards.
"But the flip side of that is it could happen. If we come up against Bahrain away and we get a player sent off, it's been a good lesson for us.
"To score three goals, two of them with 10 players on the park, and get a result like that speaks volumes. It shows there is a hell of a lot of character in the side."
There are no ramifications from Vicelich's red card - he will miss the All Whites' next friendly match and still be available for both play-off games against Bahrain.
Herbert was impressed with his up-front pairing of Smeltz and Fallon, saying their combination boded well as a long-term prospect.
"I was hugely impressed with Rory...his stature and height give us a lot of options.
"I was delighted for him to score on debut, and of course Smeltzy plays better for us all the time."
Another bonus was having Blackburn captain and defender Ryan Nelsen play out the full 90 minutes, Herbert said.
"Having Ryan has been a bonus for everybody. His leadership qualities are essential for this team."
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