New Zealand qualify for 2010

Fallon goal lifts New Zealand over Bahrain

Fallon: Crucial winner

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New Zealand have qualified for the 2010 World Cup finals following a 1-0 victory over Bahrain in their Asia/Oceania qualifier second leg at Westpac Stadium.

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After a goalless draw in the first leg, New Zealand entered the game knowing a win in Wellington would see them return to a finals for the first time since Spain 1982.

Plymouth Argyle striker Rory Fallon was the hero for the home side after scoring the only goal of the game just a minute before half-time.

The 27-year-old was perfectly placed to head home Leo Bertos' corner past Bahrain goalkeeper Sayed Jafaar for the all-important winning goal.

The visitors had a glorious chance to level matters after half-time, but keeper Mark Paston saved Sayed Adnan's penalty in the 50th minute to deny Bahrain an equaliser.

The hosts were under early pressure conceding two corners and having defender Ben Sigmund yellow-carded in just the third minute.

They gave Jaffar his first test in the eighth minute when a Shane Smeltz header across the goalmouth from a Bertos free-kick found captain Ryan Nelsen, but his looping header found the top of the net.

Delightful volley

Striker Chris Killeen almost broke the deadlock in the 19th minute when he sent a delightful left-foot volley from the edge of the penalty area beyond the Bahrain goalkeeper but off the crossbar.

Soon after attacking midfielder Bertos, having made his presence felt with a number of early runs at the defence, sent a right-footed free-kick just wide of Jaffar's left-hand post.

All Whites goalkeeper Paston was on hand on the half-hour to dive low to his left and deny a snap volley in front of goal by Bahrain front man Jaycee John.

Jaffar then produced a superb reflex save from a goalbound header by Fallon with half-time closing in, with Bertos again involved in the play in providing the cross.

But that was all in vain in the 45th minute when, from a Bertos corner, Fallon rose highest in the six-yard area to send a powerful header beyond Jaffar.

On the balance of play the All Whites half-time lead was deserved, with Bertos and a Tony Lochhead providing most of the sting in the home side's attacking forays.

Drama

The drama intensified in the 50th minute when referee Larrionda pointed to the penalty spot after Lochhead fouled Abdulla Ismaeel Omar.

However, the combination of a poor strike from Adnan and a perfectly-timed dive by Paston to his right kept the All Whites in front.

Nelsen increasingly stamped his class on the match, organising the defence as the visitors pushed forward in search of an equaliser.

Smeltz came close to doubling the tally with 20 minutes to play but his close-range strike flashed wide.

Killeen then sent an overhead kick in the six-yard box high over the cross bar with nine minutes remaining.

Desperate defending from All Whites pair Ivan Vicelich and Nelsen spurred the home side on in the closing minutes.

In the end it was one shot for glory, and Fallon and New Zealand, took it.