Forgotten man gives All Whites 1-0 victory
The forgotten man of New Zealand football, Chris Killen, has given a timely and spectacular reminder of his goalscoring abilities to send the All Whites through to the final of the OSN Cup in Saudi Arabia.
Killen's 16th international goal gave New Zealand a 1-0 win over the hosts this morning and moved him ahead of Grant Turner on the all-time All Whites list and into equal sixth-place with Keith Nelson.
The substitute's assured, powerful 78th minute strike from long distance flummoxed Saudi keeper Abdullah Al-Sudairy and ripped into the bottom right corner of the net.
It illuminated an otherwise dull match at a near empty King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh.
The 31-year-old China-based striker from Wellington has fallen off the radar in recent times, with bright young attacking hopes Chris Wood, Marco Rojas and Kosta Barbarouses attracting most of the headlines.
Coach Ricki Herbert even attempted to convert Killen into a midfielder but thankfully that ill-fated experiment has now been shelved.
The All Whites - ranked 50 places above Saudi Arabia at No 57 - deserved the win but not by much.
They had the better chances but Wood and Barbarouses were both denied by fine saves by Waleed Abdullah, who then made way at halftime.
Apart from the goal, it was a forgettable match, but valuable time in the saddle for the All Whites, who haven't played since March.
It was never going to be fluent football from the All Whites given the 38 degree heat, the absence of several key players and the fact that many of the squad are out of season.
The win means New Zealand will meet the United Arab Emirates in Tuesday's final at the same venue.
UAE defeated Trinidad and Tobago 7-6 on penalties in the earlier match after the scores were locked 3-3 at fulltime.
While pleased with the win, Herbert will be more interested in what he learnt from the exercise.
He deployed a rarely sighted back four, with Andrew Durante and Jake Butler starting the match as screening midfielders.
Durante - a centre back - covered a lot of ground but understandably looked lost at times as he attempted to come to grips with the unfamiliar role.
And Butler started strongly before fading to make way for Aaron Clapham in the second half.
Captain Winston Reid and Wood both showed their class, while Finland-based midfielder Chris James displayed some ability from set-piece.
AT A GLANCE
All Whites 1 (Chris Killen, 78) Saudi Arabia 0. HT: 0-0