New Zealand held Peru to a goalless draw in Wellington in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff, a victory for the hosts as they now hit the road needing only a draw with goals to secure a spot in Russia 2018.
The Oceanic side is considered a heavy underdog against the 10th-ranked team in the world, but they locked down Peru, holding them to just three shots on target on 11 overall attempts. Peru was out of ideas missing striker Paolo Guerrero, who failed a doping test and given a 30-day suspension.
The two teams will now head to Lima to finish the tie on Wednesday. Guerrero is currently out of the return leg as well, unless Peru wins an appeal against the suspension.
Peru had a signature moment in each half, but failed to capitalize on either. New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic was the star both times, making a goal-line clearance just seven minutes in and expertly tipping an Aldo Corzo header over the bar just past the hour mark.
Burnley striker Chris Wood was withdrawn from the New Zealand starting lineup after being dogged by a lingering hamstring issue, but he was brought on in the second half as a substitute and immediately brought Peru goalkeeper Pedro Gallese into action.
The 90 minutes on Wednesday will now decide each country’s fate. Peru has not qualified for the World Cup in 36 years, while New Zealand – ranked 122nd in the world – is looking to reach just its third World Cup finals.