Vanuatu beats Fiji 5-2 at OFC Fustal Championship

Vanuatu got in the winning spirit, overcoming Fiji 5-2 with a performance that left their coach Louis Dominique beaming at 2016 OFC Futsal Championship today.

Both Vanuatu and Fiji were reeling from their opening day defeats, and both were under pressure to prove themselves capable of competing.

Fiji appeared to bounce back the quickest as emerging talent Maciu Tuilau found the back of the net barely three minutes into the match. The early lead was certainly welcome for the so-far winless hosts, but it didn’t last too long as Vanuatu upped the pressure and were rewarded with a fine equaliser courtesy of Don Mansale.

Pakoa Rakom hit back to give his side the advantage going into the break. He struck again shortly after the restart, and that was followed by an own goal before Ricky Tuigaloa extended the lead even further.

Tuilau added a second to Fiji’s tally shortly before full-time but it proved too late for the hosts as Vanuatu walked away with the victory and three points in their pockets.

“We weren’t really switched on in the first few minutes of the game and actually a lot of the first half so we had to pull up and start concentrating and then we started to play,” Vanuatu coach Louis Dominique says.

“After we went a goal down we told them that we needed to try and win the game to be on the right track. We got more organised in the defence and that’s where we started to manage well and score goals.”

While it was a disappointing result for Fiji, especially after leading, it’s another step on the development path for coach Intiaz Khan.

“When I compare it with the performance of yesterday it was vastly improved so credit to the boys.

“For most of them it’s their first time at the championship, the first time in this atmosphere, and certainly the first time they’ve played in this atmosphere. So they’re getting some invaluable experience and that’s really important going forward in this tournament and future tournaments too.”

The second match up was one of the key deciders on who moves closer to the top of the table, and whose dreams of qualification take a knock when Solomon Islands took on New Caledonia.

Once again, the first goal came within the first three minutes of the game, as George Stevenson powered home the ball to open the scoring for Solomon Islands. The defending champions certainly looked worthy of that title with their performance as they made the Francophones work for every second with the ball.

Micah Lea’alafa gave the crowd a reason to shout his name with his goal, before Coleman Makau put two fine strikes in the back of the net to give the Kurukuru a 4-0 lead. Stevenson added a fifth in the second half, which is when Christ Roland Pei also managed to find the back of the net with an impressive consolation goal.

However it was a terse affair with New Caledonia picking up two cautions over the course of the game, and Solomons coming close themselves

“At half-time we had a conversation there for us to manage ourselves better, because in the first half we got five faults, and five faults very quickly,” Kurukuru coach Juliano Schmeling says.

“So in the second half we tried to manage it better, but I’m happy for the boys and for the performance.”

There was a hint of disappointment on the New Caledonia side, but coach William Bret also had only nice things to say about the heart in his side’s performance.

“Solomon Islands has an incredible amount of experience and that’s what won the game today,” he says.

“So I’m still very proud because I believe it was a good game. The score might be high, but I’m incredibly proud of the players because they kept fighting right until the end.”

The final match was yet another encounter which would help shape the standings going into Match Day 3 on Wednesday as a buoyant New Zealand took on a Tahiti hungry for their first points.

Once again, concentration and slow starts to the game from one side resulted in an early goal, with Kareem Osman able to put the Futsal Whites ahead well inside the five minute mark.

It only got worse for Tahiti as less than two minutes later Stephen Ashby-Peckham was tapping in a second for the Kiwis. New Zealand’s defence withstood an incredibly amount of pressure from the Tahitians who, once settled on the court, were fighting to claw their way back into the encounter.

While they enjoyed 60 per cent of possession, Tahiti struggled to get past Elias Billeh in goal in particular despite putting 12 of their 31 shots on target. What looked to be a goal in the first for Tahiti was not awarded which put a dent in spirits, but luck turned in their favour after the break as Lucas Da Silva accidently deflected a cross into his own goal. Adopting the fifth man tactic for a large chunk of the second half helped contribute to that goal, but it also put them at risk at the back, a factor Dylan Manickum exploited when he won the ball deep in Tahiti territory and sent it rolling into an empty net.

Tahiti pulled a second goal back through the diminutive Heimana Faarahia, and although they continued to come close, it wasn’t enough to even walk away with a point.

“The domination was from us, the majority of the time we were in our opponent’s half. Unfortunately we took some risks, going forward with five, but that happens,” Tahiti coach Jacob Tutavae says.

“I don’t regret using this tactic at all. Every match in this competition is decisive and whether it’s 1-0 or 10-0 it’s still a loss. So we went for it and got to 2-1 but unfortunately it also meant we conceded the third goal.”

For New Zealand coach Scott Gilligan it’s a pleasing victory that saw his side show it’s true character.

“When Tahiti started playing the fifth man, which they did quite a lot, and with the slippery court, we have to move but they don’t have to quite as much so it was dangerous and we nearly copped one at the end because of it,” Gilligan says.

New Zealand and Solomon Islands are now clearly leading the pack after two wins each, so no doubt the stands will again be packed when they play today at 5.30pm. New Caledonia will take on Vanuatu at 3pm, while the evening will be closed by Fiji and Tahiti.