Bahrain to build on first-leg lessons

WELLINGTON - Bahrain will be hoping to build on a dominant second-half display in last month's scoreless draw with New Zealand as the platform for a better result in Saturday's Asia/Oceania World Cup qualifier second leg.

The winner of the match at a sold-out Westpac Stadium in Wellington will advance to the 2010 World Cup finals after the side's battled out a 0-0 draw in Manama, with Bahrain failing to convert several clear-cut chances.

Despite the stalemate, Bahrain coach Milan Macala said the match had been a tremendous learning experience for his side as they had only previously seen the All Whites on television.

"The first half, because we (had) not experienced them... we played very carefully," Macala told reporters on Friday.

"The second half we played very good and I think we were a better team.

"We created five opportunities and should have scored two. If we were sitting here at 2-0 then we would be in a much better situation.

"At 0-0, then its not a bad result but we still have to be very careful when we play."

Macala, whose light-hearted personality was evident throughout the news conference, however, refused to divulge exactly what he had learned from last month's match.

"Its a secret," he said when asked what he thought the All Whites' weaknesses were.

"I can't tell you," he then replied with a chuckle when asked what the Oceania champions' strengths might be.

And what worried him?

"Everything," he deadpanned before adding "the strikers. (Chris) Killen. (Shane) Smeltz. Good. Talented."


New Zealand trained all week with the 3-4-3 formation they used in Manama, and Rory Fallon is likely again to join Killen and Smeltz up front.

However, coach Ricki Herbert said there was a concern over midfielder anchor Simon Elliott, who is battling a hip injury though he would be given until the last possible minute to prove his fitness.

Michael McGlinchey, who made a huge impact when he came on as a substitute in Manama, is likely to replace Elliott.

With the tie to be decided on away goals over extra time if needed, before going to penalties, New Zealand must also try and win the game and attacking midfielder Leo Bertos may be given more rein to push forward than he did in Manama.

"Our outcome is very clear. We need to win... (and) goals are the priority," Herbert said. "I don't care if it goes 120 minutes, we will be going the distance."

Herbert said there did not appear to be any outward signs of pressure on the players, despite the importance of the tie.

"I like what I've seen," he said.

"There's a very good spring in everybody's step, there's a very positive approach to everything we've done."

New Zealand (probable): 1-Mark Paston; 4-Ben Sigmund, 6-Ryan Nelsen (captain), 5-Ivan Vicelich; 11-Leo Bertos, 7-Simon Elliott, 8-Tim Brown, 3-Tony Lochhead; 9-Shane Smeltz, 10-Chris Killen, 14-Rory Fallon.

Bahrain (possible): 1-Sayed Jaffer; 5-Mohamed Hubail, 15-Abdulla Omar, 16-Sayed Adnan Jalal, 17-Hussain Ali Baba; 10-Mohamed Ahmed S