Wood wants Olympic Premier League boost

TONY SMITH IN MANCHESTER
Last updated 15:43 30/07/2012
Chris Wood

PULLING A ROONEY: Chris Wood celebrates his goal against Egypt.

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All Whites striker Chris Wood hopes his first Olympic Games might be the springboard to a starting place at his English premier league club West Bromwich Albion.

Wood netted for the New Zealand Oly-Whites in their 1-1 draw with Egypt to keep alive their dream of a place in the quarterfinals.

Another goal for Wood against Brazil on Thursday could only be beneficial for his premier league career as he seeks to establish himself at West Brom after two seasons on loan to lower-tier teams.

The 20-year-old Waikato product said scoring against Egypt "will definitely help'' him catch the eye of new WBA manager Steve Clarke, who has taken over from England coach Roy Hodgson.

"Hopefully, he'll take notice, but it's all about performances as well. You're not always going to score but as long as the performances are going in and he's seeing those, I'll be a happy man.''

Wood dropped to his knees and slid along the pitch to the famous Stretford End to be mobbed by his New Zealand teammates.

"It was brilliant for me,'' the 20-year-old Hamilton product said. "I've watched Rooney do it thousands of times there, so it was nice to emulate him at least once.''

Wood was on the spot to steer the ball home in the 17th minute after Ipswich Town defender Tommy Smith flicked on Michael McGlinchey's corner.  "I think [Tommy] was trying to score; he'll be claiming the assist,'' Wood said. "I was just in the right place at the right time.''

He admitted aping Manchester United star Wayne Rooney's trademark goal celebration.

Wood dropped to his knees and slid along the pitch to the famous Stretford End to be mobbed by his New Zealand teammates and admired by the same supporters who watch Rooney each week.

"It was brilliant for me,'' Wood said. "I've watched Rooney do it thousands of times there, so it was nice to emulate him at least once.''

But his biggest supporters didn't get to see his goal at close hand. "The family was down the other end of the pitch, so they missed out that time.''

The Oly-Whites clung to Wood's buffer for a further 22 minutes until Egypt forward Mohammed Salah, who plays for FC Basel,  equalised in controversial fashion.

Salah later admitted he was not sure if he was on-side when he latched on to captain Mohammed Aboutrika's pinpoint centre.  Television replays showed it was a marginal call but it appeared he was on side by the length of Smith's back foot.

The Kiwi camp had no complaints about the call with captain Ryan Nelsen quipping they rode the luck of the Gods'' with Egypt enjoying the majority of clear-cut chances.

Wood agreed. "It was a close call, the liners [assistant referees] have tough jobs, we all know that. If it was [offside] it was,  if it wasn't it wasn't... we can't complain about it.''

Goalkeeper Michael O'Keeffe bounced back from a blunder in the 1-0 loss to Belarus to produce a string of great saves, including a point-blank block on Saleh Gomma in the first half and an athletic leap to tip over Emead Mateab's sizzling shot in the 58th minute.

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New Zealand were under the pump in the third quarter but got back into the game in the final 20 minutes with Barbarouses and Marco Rojas causing Egypt trouble with their pace and ball control down the flanks.

The final quarter was thrill-a-minute, end-to-end action with countless chances at both ends. Nelsen said it was almost "we score, you score'' with both sides having "four on two'' overlaps streaming forward.

New Zealand could have hit the lead again after 76 minutes when Rojas broke down the left wing and picked out McGlinchey with a cross.  But the former Glasgow Celtic midfielder could only direct his header at Egypt's grateful goalkeeper Ahmed Elshenawi.

O'Keeffe made two fine saves to rob Eteab and Salah before Eteab missed a sitter, under pressure from Tim Payne after rounding the keeper.

Substitute Cam Howieson conjured a cross which Shane Smeltz could not quite reach and the Oly-Whites had one last breakout on the counter but Smeltz was shackled by a desperate defender.

New Zealand 1 (Chris Wood 39min)

Egypt 1 (Mohammed Salah 39m).

HT: 1-1.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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