Football: All Whites beat Honduras 1-0

The All Whites won their first game in two years, edging Honduras 1-0 in Dallas today to complete a successful two-match American tour.

Almost two years to the day of New Zealand's 1-0 win over Serbia in a pre-World Cup friendly, the All Whites defeated similarly favoured opponents thanks to a Shane Smeltz header right on halftime.

The win follows Thursday's 2-2 draw with El Salvador in Houston, giving the All Whites a huge boost ahead of next month's Oceania Nations Cup.

That tournament in the Solomon Islands doubles as the first stage of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup - a journey which, all going well, will culminate in an inter-continental play-off against the fourth-ranked Central American side next November.

Considering their success against Honduras (sixth in the region) and the good showing against El Salvador (third), the All Whites would hold no fear going into a two-legged tie against similar opposition.

The All Whites' first win in 12 months came with a weakened side, while also blooding some young talent, and would leave coach Ricki Herbert feeling very positive heading into the World Cup campaign.

It was a dour first half devoid of clear-cut chances, but there were still encouraging signs for the All Whites (130th in the world) against the higher-ranked Hondurans (62nd).

Aaron Clapham was busy in his first start for the national side, and he and Michael McGlinchey ensured the team continued to play the possession-based football so successful against El Salvador.

Honduras were more reserved than their central American neighbours, which left both sides probing rather than puncturing the opposing defence.

But the game began to open up after a first 20 minutes completely bereft of goal-scoring opportunities, and the All Whites began to look threatening from the flanks. The final ball was too often absent, though - until right on the stroke of halftime.

Clapham cleverly found Jeremy Brockie - moved to the left wing after Ian Hogg was forced from the field - in space out wide, and the Wellington Phoenix recruit curled a perfect cross with his bad foot to the edge of the six yard box. There, Shane Smeltz had stolen into space between the Honduras centre backs and he buried his header for his 18th international goal.

While it would be a stretch to say the All Whites deserved their lead, it did reward some admirable patience with the ball and resolute defending without it.

And they were nearly rewarded further shortly after halftime when Chris Wood, on for Smeltz, showed great vision to find Clapham on the edge of the area, but the Cantabrian scuffed his volley just wide.

At that point, Honduras had been restricted to long-range shooting but they opened up the All Whites' defence for the first time on the hour, with the post coming to Mark Paston's rescue after the keeper was beaten.

Despite the scare, New Zealand continued to attack and looked a lot more threatening than before the break. Both Brockie and Wood went close with a couple of driven shots, and Kosta Barbarouses should have done better when he was put through on goal.

The Russian-based Barbarouses allowed the ball to become trapped under his feet, and the All Whites' slim lead remained. That nearly changed with 15 minutes left but Paston's other post was called into action after a poor defensive header from 17-year-old Cameron Howieson gave the Hondurans a sight of goal.

Honduras continued to pile the pressure on a tiring All Whites' defence, but they failed to find the equaliser in a one-way final 10 minutes.


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