Australia defeated New Zealand 2-1 at the MCG last night. Brett Holman slipped in at the far post in the last minute, the All Whites let down by a moments lapse in concentration as they contemplated the Bourke Street nightlife and a post match pot or two of well earned Coopers Sparkling Ale.
Despite the result there was still plenty to be excited about as a NZ football fan last night...and plenty left to ponder.
The Australian reaction was mixed, of course the fans at the 'G celebrated at the final whistle as though they'd just downed Brazil- this was their final farewell to their heroes and Holman had saved Pim Verbeeks blushes. But the Ocker Bloggers and Commentators had a more sober view the next day, this was a poor Australian performance on the whole, made even more ugly by Vince Grella's two footed lunge and Tim Cahill's flying feet, both fouls on the battle-scarred Leo Bertos. These were desperate acts from a team not expecting such a fight in a carefully stage managed 'friendly." To Verbeek's credit he said as much, denouncing Grella and Cahill for their poor challenges.
Bertos got off with just a few scrapes but Tim Brown fractured his shoulder in an awkward fall. He has flown back to Auckland for treatment, here's hoping it doesn't destroy his dream of playing in the World Cup.
I was impressed at how composed the All Whites looked, calmly playing out of the back and patiently building up attacks. New Zealand were the better team in the first half, and fully deserved the lead at the break, courtesy of a Chris Killen goal set up by the influential Simon Elliott. It was only in the second half, once key play makers Bertos and Brown had been kicked and rucked out of the game, and the subs started to flow that the Kiwis resorted to the more traditional Route One style. This gave Australia more time with the ball and their superior world ranking eventually began to show.
While none of Australia or New Zealand's South Africa Pool mates will be quaking at the performances on display the result would start to deflect some of the criticism from sceptics who think New Zealand's appearance at the World Cup Finals is cause for much mirth and merrymaking.
There is still a long road until credbility is reached, but last night was a good start.
Finally I must admit some minor Fortean culpability for the loss, tempting fate with a 92nd minute text to a mate watching in a Pub- no sooner had I pressed send on my text, conveying that I thought a 'draw was a fair result,' than the decisive cross was met by Holman, instant chaos theory at its most lethal.
I am sorry All Whites, this was as much a warm up for us fans as it was for the players- I won't be tempting fate come June 15th by trying to preempt the score via text before the final whistle.
For those who may have missed it, here are the highlights: