Meanwhile, AS Pirae made an emphatic start to their Group B campaign, powering to a 3-0 win over New Caledonia's Tiga Sport in the capital, scoring all three goals in a first half blitz.
RNZ Pacific reports Hekari, who were champions in 2010, scored two second half goals to repel the challenge of the Vanuatu team in front of a vibrant home crowd of nearly 6000.
A spirited appeal for handball in the Hekari penalty area in the 36th minute threatened to be the defining moment of the first half, but the home town pleas for a penalty were dismissed by the referee.
The first goal came in the 58th minute and was courtesy of an unusual occurrence.
When Ifira goalkeeper Antonie Taiwia was forced to tidy up a long ball under pressure he stepped outside the box before he could let go of the ball.
Yagi Yasasa drilled the resulting free-kick ball into the top right-hand corner.
Against the run of play with Ifira having the momentum, Hekari doubled their lead. Yasasa set up Rex Naime to drive home when one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Despite constant attacking raids, Ifira could not convert chances into goals and now face a tense battle to qualify for the semi-finals.
In the other match, AS Pirae scored in the seventh minute through Yohann Tihoni with a spectacular volley from an acute angle.
Pirae doubled their score in the 25th minute with another volley, this time from defender Tevaitini Teumere from outside the box.
In the 40th minute, a swift counter-attack from the Tahitian side unleashed Ariiura Labaste, whose initial shot was blocked but he tapped in the rebound to establish a three-goal half-time advantage.
AS Pirae are missing their usual coach and three players due to work commitments, but all personnel will be available to join the squad if they make next week's semi-finals.
Hekari United earned a hard-fought 2-0 win over local hopefuls Ifira Black Bird in Group B of the 2023 competition in Port Vila on 15 May 2023. Photo: Oceania Football Confederation