All Whites get one back on New Caledonia
The All Whites have avenged the Horror of Honiara with a comfortable 2-0 win over their Oceania Nations Cup conquerors New Caledonia in Noumea to kickstart their bid for a second consecutive World Cup finals appearance.
Perth Glory star Shane Smeltz grabbed his 21st international goal in the 12th minute and towering young striker Chris Wood doubled the lead in the 40th minute.
Ricki Herbert's men made the perfect start to the Oceania qualifying series to set up an absorbing showdown in Auckland on Tuesday night against the Solomon Islands, who beat Oceania champions Tahiti 2-0 in Honiara.
Herbert fielded eight of his starting lineup from the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa with English Premier League stars Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid back to bolster the defence.
A full-strength New Zealand side was always going to be too strong for New Caledonia, who upset the All Whites 2-0 in the Nations Cup semifinal in Honiara in June.
Vice-captain Tommy Smith spoke before last night's game of the need to ''exorcise the demons'' - and the All Whites emphatically did that.
It was one-way traffic at Stade Numa Daly for the first 20 minutes with New Zealand winning a flurry of freekicks before Smeltz struck, slotting home a rebound after New Caledonia keeper Rocky Nyikeine's flailing feet beat out Wood's initial shot.
New Caledonia took 20 minutes to tee up their first chance but Bertrand Kai missed the target from inside the box and French first division player Georges Gope-Fenepej was astray with a shot a minute later.
Michael McGlinchey failed to head home a Tony Lochhead cross in the 31st minute but McGlinchey helped set up the All Whites' second goal when his cross found Smeltz, who fed Wood for the 20-year-old West Bromwich Albion man to net his eighth goal in his 26th match.
The All Whites stormed straight back onto attack in the second half, winning a corner three minutes after the restart.
But skipper Nelsen headed wide.
Noel Kaudure missed a chance for New Caledonia and was immediately replaced as the hosts made a double substitution in the 56th minute in a bid to revive their attack.
Substitute Jacques Haeko conjured an opening for Kai, who failed to capitalise in the 60th minute and the All Whites easily absorbed any additional pressure.
Wellington Phoenix forward Jeremy Brockie looked set to score his first All Whites goal after a pass by Smeltz but failed to test the keeper.
Smeltz's goal allowed him to move up to third equal on the All Whites' all-time scoring charts, joining current manager Brian Turner on 21.
He is just one goal behind Steve Sumner and six adrift of top scorer Vaughan Coveny (28).
But Smeltz was one of three All Whites to collect yellow cards, joining McGlinchey and Reid in Tahitian referee Norbert Huata's black book.
New Caledonia 0 New Zealand 2 (Shane Smeltz, Chris Wood). HT: 2-0.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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