NEW ZEALAND VS NEW CALEDONIA
New Zealand and New Caledonia took the field in Ba to kick off the OFC U-17 championship yesterday – January 11th.
Against the odds, the game started with New Caledonia putting the Kiwis under pressure, with coach Leonardo Lopez employing a bold strategy to try to surprise New Zealand – but at first it did not work, with Marley Leuluai – New Zealand captain and Manchester City player – finding Adam Watson on the right wing who hit the ball into the net, goalkeeper Claude Tiaouniane missed it and in the rebound striker Luke Supyk shot to score. New Zealand ahead in the 9th minute.
But even with New Zealand taking the lead, New Caledonia was not intimidated and kept their strategy in action and reacted quickly – in the 16th minute right-back Ronald Nganyane dribbled past the defender and hit the goal, goalkeeper Matt Foord missed and the ball went in for the Cagous to equalize the game.
New Caledonia kept forcing New Zealand into mistakes and pressing up top, with Hienghène striker Nolhann Alebate always getting good runs down the left wing and forcing New Zealand players to constantly have to stop plays with fouls.
Before going to the break New Zealand still suffered a major blow when they had to replace Stoke City striker Adam Watson due to injury.
In the second half New Zealand got its balance, with the Kiwis and New Caledonia having a fierce scramble for the ball, but failing to get any scoring chances.
Then in the 65th minute, Yazid Wajoka disarmed the New Zealand defender in midfield, passed to Nolhann Alebate who dribbled around left-back Anton Isaako until he was brought down in the box – a penalty for New Caledonia converted by captain Joseph Hnalissilin. The Cagous had the lead with just over 20 minutes remaining.
New Caledonia’s joy didn’t last long, as on the next play Luke Supyk came face to face with goalkeeper Claude Tiaouniane who saved the first shot, on the rebound captain Joseph Hnalissilin lifted his foot too high hitting Supyk and committing a penalty – Luke Supyk himself hit and converted to tie the game.
Soon after the goal New Zealand took the control of the match, in a controversial move when the player of New Caledonia was down in his own box, the referee did not stop the match for medical care, New Zealand accelerated the game and in 76th after the cross of Matt D’Hotman, Luke Supyk headed his third goal of the match. There was not much complaint from the New Caledonian players.
In the last play of the game New Caledonia still owes the chance to equalize with Gregory Diko who hit a left-footed shot to the defense of New Zealand goalkeeper Matt Foord.
New Zealand now faces American Samoa on January 15th, while New Caledonia has a round off.
TAHITI VS VANUATU
In the second game Tahiti faced Vanuatu, of the Brazilian coach Emerson Alcantara, who from now on will also be in charge of the senior national team of Vanuatu.
The start of the match was all about pressure from Tahiti – recovering the ball quickly and having a good chance to score – the first good chance of the Polynesians came in the 3rd minute with the left side Tahiarii Teriitemataua finishing in the small to the outside of the goal after a corner kick.
In the 8th minute Vanuatu got its first chance, with Yan Chilia’s being found in front of goal, but goalkeeper Argan Clodic-Boucher came out well, anticipating and stopping the shot of the No. 11.
Even after this opportunity Tahiti continued to have total control of the match. Another good chance was with Vaitea Seguy free-kick forcing the goalkeeper Joseph Nakou to save the ball for a corner.
The Tahiti team opened the scoring after a goalmouth scramble in the penalty area with the ball falling to right winger Titouan Guillemant, who hit it into the back of the net, opening the scoring in the 23rd minute.
Tahiti did not slow down even with the advantage on the scoreboard, in the 35th minute Keanan Faure crossed and Albert Thimothy scored an own goal.
In the early of the second half Vanuatu had chances to reduce the score through Jimmy Moso who shot to a spectacular save by Argan Clodic-Boucher. Soon after, Tahiti’s Dylan Hutia was set up by Keanan Faure and shot over the goalkeeper, but the Vanuatu defender saved on the line.
The game continued at the same pace until the 82nd minute when, following a corner kick, Delickson Judah scored to bring the Vanuatu only one goal down – but it was too late for any reaction. Tahiti controlled the ball until the end of the game and confirmed their debut win.
Tahiti now face the Cook Islands in the next round while Vanuatu have the day off and will probably decide their place in the quarterfinals in the last group phase matchday.