David Mulligan scored a late goal to give New Zealand a 2-1 win over Vanuatu in their Oceania World Cup qualifying match at Port Vila yesterday.
Vanuatu, supported by a jubilant crowd which filled the capital's tiny Municipal Stadium to capacity three hours before kickoff, led 1-0 at halftime from a goal by Jean Nako.
The Kiwis equalized through striker Shane Smeltz and then added Mulligan's late goal, defying the oppressive heat and allowing the Kiwis to keep their unbeaten record in the Oceania tournament which leads toward the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
The New Zealanders beat Fiji 2-0 in their opening match in Lautoka.
Fiji drew 3-3 at home to New Caledonia yesterday, squandering a 2-0 halftime lead.
Valerio Nawatu put Fiji ahead after two minutes and Osea Vakatalesau's goal in the 30th minute gave them a commanding lead at the break. The second half seesawed as New Caledonia drew level at 2-2 with goals in the 60th minute from Ramon Janali and in the 69th minute from Kaudre Robert.
Fiji pulled ahead 3-2 when Vakatealesau scored his second goal, but a late strike by Hmae Michel earned the visitors a valuable draw.
New Caledonia were without captain Pierre Wajoka, who was suspended after receiving two yellow cards against Samoa.
Yesterday's clash was the third between the teams in 10 weeks and followed New Caledonia's 1-0 win over Fiji in the final of this year's South Pacific Games.
Fiji had five first-choice players unavailable. Midfielder Salesh Kumar, Josaia Bukalidi and Malakai Tiwa were injured while Samuela Vula and Simione Tamanisau had personal reasons.
New Caledonia coach Chambaran Didier said he was happy with his side's performance, which boded well for their next match with Fiji at Noumea on Wednesday.
New Zealand host Vanuatu in Wellington on the same day.
In the World Cup African zone, Djibouti eliminated Somalia 1-0 in a one-leg home victory on Friday, and Madagascar yesterday eliminated home side Comoros 4-0 ( 10-2 on aggregate).