The All Whites have edged ahead of their Oceania rivals after a hard fought 2-0 win over Tahiti in Papeete in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Goals to Shane Smeltz and Ben Sigmund secured the win for the All Whites who retain pole position in the race for the intercontinental playoff place with nine points.
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert was proud of the disciplined display from his side in the face of a "very physical and aggressive Tahitian side".
"We nullified them quite well and stuck to our game plan and got the three points," said captain on the night Tommy Smith.
New Caledonia sits three points back in second place courtesy of a 6-2 win over the Solomon Islands yesterday, with Oceania champions Tahiti winless and goalless after three matches.
Smeltz moved to outright second on the all-time goal scorers list scoring a tap-in at the back post in the 24th minute. It was Smeltz’s 23rd ‘A’ international goal which took him past Steve Sumner with only Vaughan Coveny still above him on 28 goals.
"We're delighted for him, it's always great seeing the strikers scoring goals and he's getting closer to that top mark," said Smith.
The win was confirmed late in the second half when Sigmund slammed a header home at the back post from a corner eight minutes from time to send the All Whites to Christchurch with three crucial away points.
Herbert will be without Tim Payne after the 18-year-old picked up his second caution of the campaign having previously been booked in the match for third place at the OFC Nations Cup in June.
There is also concern over goalkeeper Mark Paston who was ruled out of the match with a foot infection, allowing Glen Moss the start in goal for the All Whites.
"He couldn't really get his boot on today, but he's in the right hands and the medical staff will have another look at it when we get to Christchurch," said Herbert.
The All Whites return to New Zealand in the early hours of the morning (NZT) where they will link up with Ryan Nelsen and Winston Reid before settling in Christchurch tomorrow afternoon.
The return match with Tahiti kicks off at 7:35pm on Tuesday night with New Caledonia hosting the Solomon Islands earlier in Noumea.
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