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New Zealand edge ahead with second win in OFC Futsal Championship Invitational

New Zealand continued their impressive domination at the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational this evening with a 5-1 victory over Vanuatu while New Caledonia gave hope to their campaign as they held Tahiti at 4-4 in their first-ever futsal international on home soil.

Patience paid off for the Futsal Whites according to coach Scott Gilligan, especially in the first half, as the side was content to let Vanuatu test the waters in their half.

“I think in the first half we were very patient. Very patient when we had the ball, but also our defensive structure was sound and we didn’t try to do anything fancy in the first half, but just tried to contain,” Gilligan says of his team’s approach.

“The second goal was a good counter attack which we converted at the back post and gave us a good 2-0 buffer. From there we sort of said we don’t need to chase the ball, it’s a matter of them coming to us. They certainly pressed a lot and gave away too many fouls – but we couldn’t convert them all either.”

Gilligan’s charges left it almost ten minutes before they pounced on an opportunity as Match Day 1 provider Mohammed Kamri switched roles to score the opening goal. The Futsal Whites second goal was courtesy of the effective partnership between Kamri and youngster Jan Fischer who was at the far post to tap in the cross with less than two minutes remaining in the first half.

The score at the break wasn’t quite reflective of the effort Vanuatu put into chasing what proved to be an elusive first half goal. We saw the side sustain an incredibly output level against Tahiti on day one and while they weren’t playing with the same pace, created a large number of opportunities they failed to convert.

The finally broke the goal drought six minutes into the second half when some great combination play up the court was finished at the post by Ricky Tuigaloa. The celebrations weren’t long-lasting however as 30 seconds later a hand ball in their area saw the referee award a penalty for New Zealand.

Captain Marvin Eakins stepped up to do the honours, smashing it past Vanuatu goalkeeper Ivano Philip. With the foul count creeping past five for Vanuatu they found themselves in a spot of bother as they hit the maximum with 13 minutes remaining.

They were fortunate when Kareem Osman fired his effort over the target from the 10m mark, but when Vanuatu conceded again with eight minutes remaining Eakins showed a touch of class as he fired past Philip for his second. The fifth and final goal for the Futsal Whites was a great reward for the hard work keeper Atta Elayyan put into denying Vanuatu as he booted into an empty net after Vanuatu adopted the flying keeper tactic.

With Eakins directing from the centre of the court, the New Zealand defence proved itself one of the toughest in Oceania to break down as they kept Vanuatu at arms-length and drawing the shots before blocking and transitioning rapidly. “I think our defensive has been key to our success so far, most definitely,” Gilligan continues.

“That’s one of the things we talked about after the Trans Tasman – we let too many goals in and we give away stupid balls. What we talked about for this tournament was eliminating the small errors that have been costing us games and I think it’s shown.

“We copped one tonight and again it was from an error, but at least we’re minimising those chances for the opposition.” While a 5-1 loss wasn’t the ideal outcome for Vanuatu coach Louis Dominique, he says there were plenty of positives to take from the match.

“The boys played their best, I think we started well but gave away the ball too easy,” he explains. “I think New Zealand had a very good defense and defended well from the half-way line.” The day’s opening encounter – dubbed the Francophone derby – didn’t disappoint as Tahiti and New Caledonia created a goal-fest.

It all got underway in a reserved fashion as the two teams played a respectful style of futsal that saw them calmly exchanging shots. Not surprisingly, it was Tahiti who found the back of the net first courtesy of a defensive error as Smith Tino powered the ball past the goalkeeper Hauarii Hioe.

The tempo steadily increased as both keepers were kept busy with a  steady stream of efforts that seemed to hit the woodwork more often than not. Tahiti finally extended their lead with 3 minutes remaining in the first half as the persistent Eric Saihuliwa was rewarded for some dogged attacking.

Slowly closing the gap ahead of the break it was the Caledonians who continued their goal scoring ways as the second period got underway. Romain Guitton shot may have deflected off a Tahitian player but he’ll claim the prize for a well struck effort. The hosts then took the lead for the first time in the match when they went 3 v 1 with Anderson Paulin’s strike enough to beat Hioe.

The continually outstanding Smith Tino then took it upon himself to overcome his side’s deficit as an incredible individual goal was added to his tally. They then took the lead for the first time when Alexis Toofa fired a rocked towards goal which deflected off the foot of goalkeeper Ronan Euzen and up into the roof of the net.

With the clock ticking down Les Cagous got the break they needed when Tahiti reached their foul limit, conceding a 10m penalty kick. Captain Ivann Pourouoro delivered a low, hard drive into the back of the net to lock that score at four apiece.

The best result New Caledonia has achieved in their past five matches, assistant coach Steeve Laigle was elated at the result which is a vast improvement. “It’s great to be playing in our own country, and with the supporters behind us,” he says.

“But on the other hand, during the first half my players were completely terrorised by Tahiti – they didn’t develop their game on attack, they were too static and they played Tahiti’s way and that’s why we saw so many first half errors.”

Meanwhile Tahiti’s Heitapu Hunter was again disappointed his side couldn’t earn the desired victory, nor could they hold on to their lead.

“I think in comparison to our first match we were much more free and that allowed us to play a lot better most of the time,” he says. “Certainly the chances of winning the trophy grow slimmer every time we don’t win but we remain optimistic we haven’t ended all hopes just yet.”

The OFC Futsal Championship Invitational 2014 continues tomorrow at Arene du Sud as New Caledonia take on Vanuatu at 6pm (local) before Tahiti face off against a well-rested Malaysia at 8pm (local). Post Courier
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