All Whites coach Ricki Herbert has applauded the impact of young striker Kosta Barbarouses in the side's 6-1 victory over the Solomon Islands in Auckland last night.
Barbarouses scored a first-half goal in the five-goal rout, and was creative and attacking throughout the one-sided 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying encounter at North Harbour Stadium.
The 22-year-old missed the All Whites 2-0 defeat of New Caledonia on September 7, but saw himself picked for last night's clash.
He didn't disappoint, linking well with fellow forwards Chris Killen and Shane Smeltz, while providing veteran winger Leo Bertos with a constant target.
Herbert was impressed - but entirely surprised.
"Kosta just gives you the little bit [more]," he said."He gets in behind, he's good. He's got pace.
"We kind of cut him loose to do that tonight. But there's a platform, there's a responsibility when we don't have the ball and I think that went right across the park for him tonight.
"I think he wanted to make a point. He was in the side, he got a start, and he took that opportunity really well.
"But I kind of expect that. That's Kosta, how I see him. He's delivered tonight. He hasn't surprised me - but I think his performance has been really good."
The Wellington-born former Wellington Phoneix player currently plies his trade with top Greek side Panathinaikos, where he is on loan from his Russian club Alania Vladikavkaz.
The All Whites victory, which began with first half goals to both Barbarouses and Smeltz, sees them top their Oceania qualifying group after two games, with six points and a plus-seven goal differiantal.
New Zealand were simply too classy for the Solomon Islanders, who struggled with the hosts ball control and slick passing game.
The visitors scored just after half-time through skipper Henry Fa'arodo, but the All White cruised away with the game with second half goals to Killen, defender Tony Lochhead, and substitutes Chris Wood and Marco Rojas.
Lochhead's goal was his first since his international debut in 2003, while Rojas' 83rd minute strike is his first for the All Whites also, in just his 11th game.
All Whites skipper Ryan Nelsen admits there was some nerves when their opponents scored, but he knew the game was there for the taking.
"I've got to admit, there was a five-minute spell there where it could potentially be awkward," he said.
"But that's football, isn't it. You control a game for so much, you're 2-0 up, you're cruising really, and look what happens. And it became awkward."
"But at that stage, I think it was always going to be 'we were going to have opportunities to score.' There was always going to be a few more, and I'm glad the guys up top did well and finished their chances."
Nelsen, who returns to the United Kingdom where he is expected to play for Queens Park Rangers against Chelsea this weekend, warned that despite the comfortable nature of the All Whites last two victories, more hard work must be done by the side in the remaining qualifying pool games. The four remaining qualifying games will be played between October, and March next year.
"You can improve on everything," Nelsen said. "Some times you can look at eight goals and think that's great.
"But the next four games that we've got, there's going to be difficult times. It's not going to be as rosy as we've had in these last two games, if we're not prepared.
"When we go and play these guys up there, in their house, it's a whole different ball game.
"It's different players. It's different conditions. We'll be tested. So we have to improve, in every aspect."
- © Fairfax NZ News