Football: 10-man All Whites held to goalless draw in international friendly against China

  • 23/03/2023

The All Whites and China have battled to a 0-0 draw in their opening international friendly at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium on Thursday.

Playing without a host of first-choice players including Chris Wood, who was ruled out with injury, the hosts dominated both territory and possession through the opening half but couldn't find the finishing touch.

The Chinese fought back in the second half, when a red card to captain Tommy Smith in his 50th international appearance saw the visitors seize the momentum. That proved the defining moment of the match, as the goal-scoring chances dried up for the Kiwis.

Goalkeeper Oli Sail came to the fore with several crucial saves to ensure a clean sheet and the fourth consecutive draw between the two sides in the first match under interim head coach Darren Bazeley.

Marko Stamenic in action for NZ.
Marko Stamenic in action for NZ. Photo credit: Photosport

New Zealand had the majority of the running in the first half, taking the game to the Chinese, who seemed content to sit deep, but couldn't capitalise on their sizeable advantage on the ball.

The most promising chance of the first half began with a deft long pass from Tim Paine, with Kosta Barbarouses turning a ball back across goal that Matthew Garbett couldn't reach for a tap-in in at the far post

In the 43rd minute, Wei Shihao almost opened the scoring against the run of the play, with Sail showing lightning reflexes to deflect a low shot on target outside of the post.

Moments before halftime, Liberato Cacace unleashed a long-range effort that rocketed directly into the keeper's hands, as both teams headed into the interval goalless.

The visitors started the second stanza the brightest, forcing another couple of critical saves from Sail, one from a volley at close range that should have put in the back of the net by Lei.

Disaster struck for captain Smith in the 63rd minute, when he was shown a straight red card for a desperation shoulder charge born from a moment of indecision with Sail, preventing Lei a one-on-one chance with his goalkeeper. 

It was far from the ideal way to celebrate his 50th international appearance.

Seizing the momentum, China instantly looked to take advantage of their edge in numbers, forcing another crucial save by Sail minutes later.

With 10 minutes to play, substitute Liangming - unmarked and with an open goal begging - had a golden chance to break the deadlock but was off target with his header.

The teams now travel to Wellington, where they'll play the second and final match of China's visit on Sunday.

New Zealand - 0 (Smith red card 63rd min) China - 0