Australia breeze past neighbours
Australia overcame the absence of a host of big names to produce an uninspiring but assured victory over New Zealand at Adelaide Oval today. The Socceroos were without Lucas Neill, Tim Cahill, Harry Kewell and Mark Schwarzer, but their replacements were up to the task of keeping a heavy-legged All Whites outfit at bay in front of 21,281 fans.
The Kiwis only landed in Australia barely 24 hours before the match but they never truly arrived at a rainy and dreary Adelaide Oval, with a horror travel schedule and decimated squad in the end proving an insurmountable challenge.
Josh Kennedy scored twice to take his international tally to nine goals, but the stars of the show were up-and-comers James Troisi - who completed the scoring with a stoppage-time penalty - Michael Zullo and Matthew Spiranovic.
Troisi was handed a start in his hometown for just his fourth cap and his performance on the left side of midfield was impressive enough to suggest he will be a regular in Australia's 2014 FIFA World Cup™ qualification campaign. The Adelaide-born winger linked up well on the left with full-back Zullo, while Spiranovic and his partner Jon McKain were rarely troubled in the centre of defence.
Thirty hours of travel from Denver to South Australia had clearly taken its toll on the visitors and the opener arrived in the tenth minute - in the most embarrassing of fashions for New Zealand custodian Glen Moss. Jeremy Brockie played an ordinary backpass to the Gold Coast United gloveman, but his dreadful first touch opened the door for Kennedy to help himself to the ball and tuck it into a vacant net.
Troisi was busy in the first half and could have scored early had his 39th-minute shot had a bit more venom. The 22-year-old got off to a flying start, firing a rasping volley in just the second minute that just missed the right post, while stand-in skipper Brett Emerton also flashed a shot wide from 25 yards early on.
The Kiwis had a brief foray forward late in the first half, with Shane Smeltz feeding Kosta Barbarouses with a cross from the right - but the Brisbane striker's back-heeled effort trickled harmlessly into the arms of Nathan Coe. He was tested again a minute later with Brockie's cross from the left giving Smeltz half a chance in the air, but the Australia goalkeeper batted the ball away to safety.
With a 1-0 lead at the break, Socceroos boss Holger Osieck withdrew his big guns for the second half, sending on Rhys Williams, Dario Vidosic and Robbie Kruse for Emerton, Brett Holman and Luke Wilkshire.
Vidosic's first touch was a pinpoint cross that found Kennedy right in front of goal in the 47th minute, but he inexplicably shinned the ball and sent it over the bar. He made up for it in the 59th minute, though, as those two linked up once again from a corner, with Kennedy leaping above a flat-footed New Zealand defence to nod home his brace.
Troisi was gifted the chance to open his international account in front of family and friends when Ben Sigmund brought down Kruse deep in stoppage time, and he made no mistake from the spot.