9 Feb 2015

Football Ferns held by North Korea

12:50 pm on 9 February 2015

The New Zealand women's football team have drawn 1-1 with North Korea in their opening tri-series match in Auckland.

Hannah Wilkinson and Betsy Hassett

Hannah Wilkinson and Betsy Hassett Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Curiously the anthems wouldn't play on the sound system at Bill McKinlay Park before the game, so both teams sang their anthems a cappella in front of a crowd of more than a thousand fans.

Hannah Wilkinson put the 18th-ranked Football Ferns in front against the seventh best side in the world in the 11th minute, but the visitors equalised through Jong Sim Wi 11 minutes later.

The series is part of the Football Ferns' preparations for the World Cup in Canada in June and coach Tony Readings is happy with the performance of his players.

"What we're talking about a lot at the moment is our intent to do the right thing," he says. "Today, there was real intent for the whole match to play to win and to take on their pressure, which we know is one of the best in the world."

The captain Abby Erceg says although it was the first time they had been able to deny the North Koreans victory, they were disappointed with their overall performance.

New Zealand's goal came after they won possession in opposition territory and worked the ball into the penalty box, where Wilkinson produced an emphatic finish.

That spurred on North Korea, who as the world No.7 are ranked 11 places above New Zealand.

The Koreans began to gain the upper hand with some crisp passing and movement and levelled in the 21st minute when Wi met a whipped cross from the right.

The midfielder almost put her side ahead minutes later but dragged her snap shot just wide.

While North Korea continued to be more dominant in a hard-fought and at times physical encounter, both sides created chances in the second spell.

One feature of the Football Ferns' play was their insistence on passing the ball out from the back, even when their opponents were pressing high.

North Korea play Australia Tuesday, with the Ferns in action again against Australia on Thursday.