Bloodied face sparks bad memories for Smeltz
Injured All Whites striker Shane Smeltz's gashed head wound against New Caledonia brought back painful memories of another bad facial injury in last year's A-League grand final.
Smeltz, one of eight frontline All Whites rested for tomorrow's dead-rubber World Cup qualifier against the Solomon Islands in Honiara, copped an upraised boot in the face in the dying minutes of last Friday's 2-1 win in Dunedin.
But Smeltz had no time to celebrate helping the All Whites clinch the Oceania qualifying group and book a berth in November's inter-continental playoffs.
He was helped off the pitch with blood streaming from the wound as captain Winston Reid vainly appealed to referee Strebre Delovski for a penalty and a red card to the New Caledonian offender.
"When my face was split open in the A-League grand final last season I thought it would be the only time in my career I would cop a freak injury like that," Smeltz wrote yesterday in a Perth newspaper column.
But he said the New Caledonia defender's boot had left "another lasting wound".
"Memories certainly returned as I was stitched by our doctor. This injury was more bloody than the last one and probably more painful. My head throbbed in bed on Friday night and my forehead was swollen."
Seven of the eight All Whites released from the squad that travelled yesterday to Honiara were in yellow card jeopardy.
Reid, vice-captain Tommy Smith, who scored the injury-time winner in Dunedin, Chris Killen, Michael McGlinchey, Smeltz, Ivan Vicelich and Chris Wood have been rested along with cleanskin Marco Rojas, who returns to his Melbourne Victory club.
But Leo Bertos, who was booked on Friday, and Jeremy Brockie and Ian Hogg, who were both cautioned earlier in the tournament, are still in the squad.
The 11th squad member with a yellow card, fullback Tony Lochhead, is out with a fractured foot.
Any player receiving a second yellow card is automatically suspended for one game.
Coach Ricki Herbert said he rested the eight cautioned players because he did not want to risk them getting another yellow card and being banned for the opening away game of the playoff series against an as yet undetermined nation from the Concacaf (North America, Central America, Caribbean) confederation.
"Now the job is done we have an opportunity to replace our injured players and better handle the yellow card situation," he said.
Bertos said the carded players could not worry too much about it. "We'll have to get on with it and deal with it. Whatever happens, happens."
The All Whites' route-one tactics and over-reliance on set plays for goals were criticised in Dunedin but Bertos said, "now the pressure's off", the Honiara game would be a chance "to get the ball down and play and express ourselves a bit more".
Past All Whites Aaron Clapham (Canterbury United) and Aaron Scott (Waitakere United) and the uncapped Luke Rowe (Team Wellington) and Cameron Lindsay (Wellington Phoenix) have been added to the squad. Ben Sigmund (Wellington Phoenix) returns after missing the New Caledonia game through suspension and his Phoenix captain Andrew Durante may also make his All Whites debut in a bid to force Fifa to rule on his eligibility.
AT A GLANCE
All Whites squad for Honiara: Mark Paston, Jacob Spoonley (gks), Aaron Scott, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Ian Hogg, Luke Rowe, Leo Bertos, Dan Keat, Tim Payne, Aaron Clapham, Cameron Lindsay, Jeremy Brockie, Kosta Barbarouses. Injured: Glen Moss, Tony Lochhead. Released: Winston Reid, Tommy Smith, Ivan Vicelich, Michael McGlinchey, Marco Rojas, Chris Wood, Chris Killen, Shane Smeltz. Kickoff: In Honiara is 5pm (NZT) tomorrow.