Amber Hearn’s record-breaking 30th international goal for the Football Ferns proved the difference as New Zealand edged China 1-0 at North Harbour Stadium on Wednesday night to win the two match series 2-0.
While the game lacked the chances and fluidity of Sunday’s 3-1 win, Hearn’s long range strike in the ninth minute strike added a touch of class to proceedings and ensured the Ferns ended the home leg of their Olympic build up on a high.
With passing options closed down in front of her, the German-based striker spotted Chinese goalkeeper Wang Fei off her line and sent a 25 yard effort sailing over her head to break Wendy Sharpe’s all time New Zealand tally that has stood for 18 years.
“I was going to pass it but then the girls took the players away and I thought I’d just go for it,” Hearn said.
Hearn, who admitted she was unaware of the record until tonight, preferred to deflect the attention away from her tally despite scoring “one of the best” goals of her career.
“It was important for us to back up tonight and we’re ecstatic that we’ve done it against a side like China. Beating them twice after 12 straight losses is fantastic.
“It gives us a great boost heading into the [next Olympic warm ups] against Australia and they’re the ones we really want to win. They’re our greatest rival.”
New Zealand coach Tony Readings paid tribute to the Ferns match-winner after the match.
“I think Amber’s been the best payer across both games and her performances deserved that goal today – and what a goal,” he said.
“That’s the sort of thing she’s capable of and she does that in training all the time. She’s stepping up more and more for us.
“I think it’s fitting that she does it here at home.”
Readings admitted the match didn’t live up to the spectacle of Sunday’s win but was said part of the team’s progress – that has seen it go unbeaten in its last eight games – was winning games in different ways.
“We’re really pleased to back up the win on Sunday. I don’t think we were as dominate today but we expected to China to step up. But when you go to the Olympics you’re never going to get it easy.
“Sometimes you have to dig out 1-0 wins. I thought we looked comfortable in possession at times – maybe not as comfortable as on Sunday but defensively we looked solid and didn’t really give them too much.
“This team has got something different about it now. We can keep the ball better but we’ve also got that nerve to hold on to leads. We didn’t look flustered and probably played our best football in that last 15 minutes.”
The Football Ferns head to Australia for two matches against the 10th ranked Matildas in Wollongong on Sunday and Wednesday before returning to New Zealand in time for Readings to announce his 18 player squad for London on June 29. The men’s squad is confirmed tomorrow.
The Football Ferns have drawn Great Britain, Brazil and Cameroon at the Olympics beginning on July 25 in Cardiff against the hosts.
International Series – Match Two
New Zealand 1 (Amber HEARN 9’)
North Harbour Stadium
New Zealand: 1-Jenny BINDON (GK), 2-Ria PERCIVAL (3-Anna GREEN 74’), 4-Katie HOYLE, 5-Abbey ERCEG, 6-Rebecca SMITH (captain / 13-Rebekah STOTT 61’), 7-Ali RILEY, 8-Hayley MOORWOOD (12-Betsy HASSETT 61’), 9-Amber HEARN, 10-Sarah GREGORIUS, 11-Kirsty YALLOP, 15-Emma KETE (17-Hannah WILKINSON 46’).
Substitutes not used: 14-Holly PATTERSON, 16-Annalie LONGO, 18-Katie BOWEN, 19-Kristy HILL, 20-Rebecca ROLLS (RGK).
Coach: Tony READINGS
China: 22-WANG Fei (GK), 2-CHEN Miaomiao, 3-SONG Xiangjie, 4-LI Jiayue, 11-LOU Jiahui, 14-LIU Shukun (captain),17-PANG Fengyue, 18-HAN Peng (21-WANG Lisi 43’), 19-ZHOU Feifei (16-WANG Xin 84’), 23-GONG Qian (6-REN Guixin 55’ / 12-ZENG Ying 79’), 25-ZHANG Rui (8-FENG Yadi 68’ / 10-MA Xiaoxu 80’).
Substitutes not used: 1-ZHANG Yue (RGK), 7-GAO Qi, 15-XU Yanlu,
Coach: LI Wei
Cautions: 21-WANG Lisi 53’
Football Ferns v Australia
WIN Stadium, Wollongong, Australia
3pm (5pm NZT)
Football Ferns v Australia
12.30pm (2.30pm NZT)