A Chris Wood goal was enough to grab New Zealand a share of the spoils in a 1-1 friendly draw with China on Wednesday.
The Kiwi striker’s 43rd minute header cancelled out Zhao Peng’s 30th minute opener at Shanghai’s Hongkou Stadium.
China coach Jose Camacho, whose side is out of World Cup qualifying and is now preparing for next year’s Asian Cup preliminaries, said his players were making progress, albeit slowly.
“Overall I think we are progressing as a team but patience is needed, our progress is slow,” the ex-Spain and Real Madrid boss said. “But the first half performance shows we are improving.”
But New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert said his untested line-up had done enough to claim a win as they gear up to host Oceania’s fourth round of 2014 World Cup qualifiers in March.
“A number of our senior players were not here tonight so it was a challenge for the young boys,” Herbert said, adding: “At the end of the day with our chances we should have won it.”
China started brightly and in the first minute New Zealand goalkeeper Mark Paston had to look sharp to beat away a Yu Hanchao shot from the edge of box.
In the ninth minute, Kiwi fullback Winston Reid brought down China captain Zheng Zhi on the edge of the penalty area, but Paston managed to hold Sun Xiang’s free kick.
New Zealand took until the 15th minute to register a shot on target, when Wood fired a well-struck low effort from around 20 yards.
China were enjoying the better of the first half and Guangzhou Evergrande striker Gao Lin came close to scoring when he combined well with Sun Xiang, but saw his low drive saved by Paston.
When Kiwi defender Ben Sigmund fluffed his shot from a dangerous Michael McGlinchey free kick on 30 minutes, China cleared long and immediately won a corner at the other end.
From the set-piece, Chinese defender Zhao Peng connected with a glancing header which squirmed over the line to put the home side ahead.
But the All Whites equalized in the 43rd minute when Tony Lochhead floated in a free kick from the left channel to the far post for Wood to nod home.
And just before half-time, Wood had a golden opportunity to put his side ahead but narrowly failed to connect with Lochhead’s low cross.
The second half was more evenly contested and Tim Payne should have scored when he received the ball near the edge of the six yard box, but shot weakly.
Just two minutes later, China’s Yu Hai sent a penetrating through ball to Yu Hanchao, who sprinted down the left and cut in to shoot from a very tight angle, but Paston was able to palm the ball wide.