WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Peru played out a sluggish, goalless draw on Saturday in the first leg of its playoff against New Zealand for the Soccer World Cup in Russia 2018.
The South American team’s overall superiority on the field was evident, but it lacked the finishing skills to win the match, held at Westpac Stadium in Wellington.
Lima will host the return leg on Wednesday, as the Peruvians will try to overcome the pressure of playing at home and being considered favorites as they look to qualify for the world cup, from which they have been absent since 1982.
The match, though played with intensity, was often lacking in excitement, with several local players limited in their options, and visiting players well placed in the midfield but ineffective in front of goal.
The game plan was evident right from the kickoff, with New Zealand opting for strong defensive play and ball clearances while Peru kept possession and passed the ball around.
Among the visitors, Jefferson Farfan missed an opportunity in the first half when a long pass almost made it through but for New Zealand keeper Stefan Marinovic who managed to keep the ball from crossing the goal line barely six minutes into the game.
Peru dominated the game against an imprecise and limited New Zealand, with their speed, particularly Andre Carrillo, whose runs threatened the local defense.
Edison Flores and Christian Cueva, who controlled the ball well, took shots at goal in the first 20 minutes but without success.
As the match progressed, New Zealand found their feet even though Peru continued to dominate the proceedings, and created problems for the visitors towards the end.
However, neither Farfan or Flores or Cueva managed to provide the breakthrough that would allow the Peruvians to walk away with their heads held high.
Peru came close again in the second half with set pieces in the 62nd minute but Marinovic did well to fend off the header from Also Corzo.
The home team seized control of the game in the finishing stages as a tired Peru lacked ideas and ended up relieved with a timid draw.