New Zealand assured themselves of participation at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 with victory over New Caledonia on Saturday, a win which also parachuted them into a playoff with Asia's fifth-best for a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. But there was no let-up from Ricki Herbert's men, as they saw off New Caledonia in style once again in Auckland. Elsewhere, Vanuatu picked up their first win of a disappointing campaign.
New Zealand were doubly determined to put on a good show in front of their home crowd: not only were they keen to put the gloss on their progression from the Oceania section, but they felt duty-bound to honour the late Charlie Dempsey, who had contributed enormously to the growth of football in Oceania. Dempsey was honoured by a minute's silence prior to the game.
Wellington Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz, in excellent form of late, made an early impression on the game when he headed in Chris James' cross in the 13th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside. Three minutes later, the visitors too went close when Pierre Wajoka's free kick came back off the upright.
New Zealand finally took the lead five minutes after half-time: once again, James crossed for Smeltz to head in, and this time the goal stood. Substitute Jeremy Christie made it 2-0 in the 69th minute, and fittingly it was Smeltz who completed the rout, firing in from the edge of the box fourteen minutes from the end.
Joy in Port Vila
With Fiji's weekend hero Salesh Kumar otherwise engaged in New Zealand, this was always going to be the perfect opportunity for Vanuatu to pick up their first win of the campaign. Despite losing Geoffrey Gete in the 50th minute, when the defender was dismissed for a second bookable offence, Vanuatu went into the lead soon afterwards through Francois Sakama. Derek Malas made it two in injury time, and Maciu Dunadamu replied for the visitors just before the final whistle.
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