Football: All Whites struggle in loss to Lithuania

An experimental All Whites side have slumped to a 1-0 defeat to Lithuania, handing the European nation their first win since March 2018.

On Monday (NZ time), New Zealand coach Danny Hay fielded a different starting side to the one that lost 3-1 to Ireland last week and while there were glimpses of brilliance, they were no match for their vastly experienced opponents.

Six of the All Whites starting side had fewer than 10 caps to their name, while three Kiwis made their debuts during the match. Defender James McGarry started the match, while Nando Pijnaker and Max Mata came off the bench.

While just one goal separated the two nations, Lithuania created more attacking opportunities at LFF Stadium in Vilnius, which led to their lone goal just before the break.

Winger Arvydas Novikovas, by far the best player on the pitch, found the back of the net with a rocket from outside the box.

The result ends a 19-game winless run for Lithuania – their last win was against Armenia on March 27, 2018.

The All Whites got off to the worst possible start, when they turned the ball over immediately, and Kiwi keeper Michael Woud was forced to save Novikovas’ shot.

Lithuania continued to create chances, but scrambling defence or excellent keeping from Woud kept New Zealand in the contest.

New Zealand had two realistic chances to score in the first half – striker Andre de Jong’s chip shot went over the crossbar and captain Tommy Smith was denied, when Ernestas Šetkus saved his close-range header.

Both teams looked headed towards the halftime break scoreless, until Novikovas scored his eighth goal for Lithuania.

Hay made a big statement to start the second half, hooking Alex Rufer and Matt Ridenton, and bringing on Joe Bell and Sarpreet Singh, who both impressed.

The hosts should probably have scored at least two more goals in the second half through Paulius Golubickas and Justas Lasickas, but Woud denied them.

Woud then denied Novikovas his second with five minutes to play and Singh missed New Zealand’s best chance to score in the second half, as they ended their two-game European tour without a win.

While Hay will be disappointed with the result, he will be pleased that many of his youngsters got to test themselves against some experienced players.

During the tour, seven players made their debuts.

New Zealand’s next outing is unknown, as they don’t have any games scheduled.

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