All Whites progress in qualifying

Michael Boxall of New Zealand and Setareki Hughes of Fiji compete for the ball during the All...
Michael Boxall of New Zealand and Setareki Hughes of Fiji compete for the ball during the All Whites match against Fiji last night. Photo: Getty Images
The All Whites are four games away from the 2018 World Cup.

Their path is going to be a lot more complicated than that sentence might indicate, but tonight's 2-0 win over Fiji was another small step towards Russia next year.

It means that if they negotiate the two-legged Oceania final in September, they can plan for a death or glory showdown with the fifth placed South American team in November.

But that's the future. Tonight the All Whites got the job done - thanks to two superb goals from Ryan Thomas - but it was a patchy display, where the All Whites made heavy work of shaking off a resilient Fijian team.

Though the attacking intent was there, New Zealand's finishing was off target for much of the night, and the final ball too often wayward. The All Whites also displayed a tendency to give possession away needlessly, not always exhibiting the patience they had showed in Lautoka on Saturday.

Fiji also had some promising counter attacks, and a better side may have punished the All Whites.

The home side was also unsettled by the Island side's physical approach. A couple of their players wouldn't look out of place in a rugby lineout, and they made their presence felt with some hefty challenges.

But there were also plenty of positives, particularly Thomas. He was outstanding with a busy display in midfield, showing why he has become one of the most highly rated young players in the Netherlands. Shane Smeltz led the line well and Clayton Lewis showed his promise before he left the field midway through the second half. Tommy Smith made his first start in three years, and the Australian-born Ingham brothers both had game time, though neither particularly stood out.

Chris Wood was the notable absentee; given leave to return home after he suffered a knock in Saturday's 2-0 win.

"Chris's injury is not too serious but I've decided to be extra cautious," said All Whites coach Anthony Hudson. "It is important that we have a fit and healthy Chris Wood for the Confederations Cup and qualifiers late in the year."

It was also a goodwill gesture towards Leeds, and underlines the growing stature of Wood in English football.

In perfect conditions at Westpac Stadium - hardly a breath of wind and no rain - the All Whites started well. Dane Ingham and Tom Doyle got down the flanks, and Marco Rojas and Michael McGlinchey were enjoying plenty of space in midfield.

But the expected early goal didn't come; the crossing - particularly from Ingham on the right - wasn't accurate enough and the Fijians managed to get their bodies in the way of shots and passes. And Fiji's Roy Krishna looked dangerous, at one point sprinting from inside his own half to the edge of the New Zealand penalty area. He miscued his shot, which prompted ironic cheers of "Who are ya? Who are ya?" from the Yellow Fever zone, but the All Whites defence had been warned.

After some near misses - the best of which was a chain of 'one-two' passing between Thomas and Lewis, which was only stopped by an excellent save from the Fiji goalkeeper - the home side opened the scoring in the 27th minute.

Thomas' finish from inside the area was crisp, lashed into the left hand corner, the first goal for the PEC Zwolle player for his country. It also illustrated the value of Smeltz at this level, with the veteran striker laying a perfect one touch pass into Thomas' path. The 2010 World Cup hero is 36, but has enough smarts for one more campaign. After a flat period early in the second half, the All Whites were revived by Thomas's second goal, a deft glancing header from a pinpoint Doyle cross.

New Zealand 2 (R Thomas 27, 68)
Fiji 0
Halftime: 2-0​

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