Football Ferns on fire in 1-1 draw with USA in Columbus, Ohio

30 October 2013

TONY SMITH

Katie Hoyle
OUTTA MY WAY: Lauren Holiday of the US gains control of the ball in front of NZ's Katie Hoyle.

The New Zealand Football Ferns have registered a well-deserved 1-1 draw with World Cup and Olympic champions, the United States.the United States.

A late strike by Hannah Wilkinson was just reward for the Ferns' strong second half attacking display against the powerhouse nation in the women's football in Columbus, Ohio today (NZT).

Wilkinson timed her run to perfection to slot a shot beyond USA goalkeeper Hope Solo in the 87th minute.

The Ferns' performance, underpinned by an impressive defensive effort, was a massive improvement on their 4-1 defeat to the same opposition in San Francisco on Monday, and their best result against USA since a 1-0 win in their inaugural encounter in 1987. 

The Americans are on a 76-game unbeaten streak at home; today's draw only their 10th stalemate in that sequence. 

The Ferns overcame the nervous start that saw them concede two early goals in San Francisco.

However, just when they seemed headed to complete a first-half clean sheet,  the Americans struck. Kristie Mewis set up Sydney Le Roux near the edge of the Ferns' area and the 23-year-old Boston Breakers striker laced a right-footed shot into the left-hand corner of the Kiwi goal.

Young goalkeeper Erin Nayler had earlier kept the Ferns in contention with several fine saves, including a one from the penalty spot.

The Americans were awarded a spot-kick in the 10th minute after a handball call on New Zealand defender Ria Percival. Veteran USA striker Abby Wambach, who has scored 162 goals in 210 internationals, stepped up to take the kick but Nayler dived to her right to make the save.

Midfielder Megan Rapinoe tried to catch Nayler out with a long-distance lob and Wambach hit he crossbar with a header in the 28th minute after Mewis' cross.

The Ferns had a handful of chances themselves with Rebecca Stott setting up Amber Hearn in the 30th minute. But Sarah Gregorious could not quite reach the far post to turn in Hearn's centre.

Wilkinson got in behind the USA defence three minutes later, but Solo intercepted her cutback.

The Americans should have doubled their lead in the 52nd minute when Wambach set up Le Roux eight metres out from goal, but the Kiwi cover defence quickly closed her down.

Wilkinson could have equalised for the Ferns three minutes later but her fiercely-struck drive was brilliantly tipped around the post by Solo.

Ferns teammate Kirsty Yallop blazed her shot wide in the 61st minute and a dangerous cross by Amber Hearn was cut out by Becky Sauerbrunn in the 83rd minute just before Wilkinson's telling strike. 

- Fairfax NZ News