Tahiti have taken pole position in Group B following their 3-0 victory over Fiji on Match Day 4 of the OFC U-16 Championship at Lawson Tama Stadium today.
Meanwhile Samoa and New Caledonia played out a 1-all draw in the second match of the day at Lawson Tama Stadium for the OFC U-16 Championship.
Tahiti coach Hermann Aurentz said he was a lot happier with his squad’s performance against Fiji today, compared with their opener against New Caledonia.
“The team prepared over the past two days because the first match wasn’t our best,” Aurentz admitted.
“We were honest with our attackers after the game as we knew that opposite us today was a team that could create plenty of chances.
“We needed to be solid at the back and also create a decent amount of chances ourselves. We got the three points and will continue on in the tournament.”
Initially it looked like it might be Fiji’s match given the way the two sides started the encounter.
Fiji looked a lot more comfortable in the first half, adopting a passing game that often had the Tahitians giving chase rather than being able to control the game themselves.
There were a slew of chances for the Fijians but they were thwarted each time either by the penalty area management from Josselin Capel, or their own difficulties finding the target.
When Tahiti won a throw in and took it quickly in the 35th minute, it was just a split second of inattention from Fiji’s goalkeeper Isikeli Sevanaia as Denji Kaiha fired off a low drive, which allowed Tahiti to take the lead.
It proved the confidence boost Tahiti needed, while having the opposite effect on the Fijians.
The chances for Tahiti started flowing as they played out the first half, and with the arrival of a big dump of weather – rain and wind – Fiji seemed much more effected than their adversary.
Following the pause for half-time Tahiti came straight out of the blocks as they intended to continue with Tehotu Gitton scoring just two minutes after the restart.
It signalled a period of dominance for Tahiti as they found their rhythm and put Fiji under a sustained period of pressure before finally they cracked and Kaiha was able to find the back of the net for the second time.
Fiji, to their credit, never gave up but it appeared as if getting on the score sheet just wasn’t to be for the side today as every shot went anywhere but on target.
Fiji coach Yogendra Dutt said the feeling among the players was low following the loss.
“The team played well in the first half. I don’t know, maybe a lapse in concentration, lack of technical ability?” Dutt said.
“That pass was so far away I couldn’t see if it was going to his foot or into space but the lack of concentration by the goalkeeper and defender cost us.”
In the day’s second match Samoa, after an impressive performance against Fiji in their opener, hoped a similar performance would be possible against New Caledonia.
While for the young Cagous, it was a match they wanted to win to try and avoid their semi-finals hopes coming down to the final match of the group.
Samoa started the match with the deep defensive block, so deep at times that the full 11 members of the squad were sitting deep in their own half.
It’s an approach which New Caledonia found incredibly frustrating as they dominated possession but struggled to find any gaps to exploit.
The break eventually came for the Caledonians in the 23rd minute when Luc Pougin lobbed the ball into the Samoa area where a waiting Ruben Kutran headed it over the line to open the scoring.
Going behind spurred Samoa into action and when they had possession, they countered at pace usually aiming to hit Kawasaki Saofaiga or Jarvis Filimalae.
The tactic worked as a long ball over the defence for Filimalae to chase was picked up and launched past the keeper Enzo Toegino in the 44th minute for the equaliser.
New Caledonia came into the second half hoping to find a winner and once again they dominated possession and had a plenty of shots on goal, but unfortunately it just wasn’t to be as every shot was either deflected around the target, impressively saved by Semu Faimata or just completely off-target from the New Caledonians who weren’t helped by having to navigate Samoan bodies all through the penalty area.
Despite their best efforts they couldn’t get the break they so desperately sought and had to settle for a share of the points.
Samoa coach Martin Tamasese said the result is a good one for his side.
“Yes, it was a good result for us. I’m really happy with the performance although there were some mistakes which cost us but the draw is a good result for us,” Tamasese said.
“As we said before, it was a different game plan for Stage 2 and we adjust and change the game plan for each match here. Today our plan was to defend and when we get the ball, counter attack.
“It worked out quite well for us and I’m happy.”
It was a different story for Leon Waitronyie who felt a draw was a disappointing result for his side.
“Yeah, one point. We would have liked to win this afternoon but you could say the stars didn’t align for us today,” the New Caledonia coach said.
“I think the boys followed the game plan against Samoa, games like this are often a trap.
“I started to think at half-time it was going to be one of those games and that ended up being the case.
“We were, you could say ‘camping’ in their goal, but without scoring.”
Tahiti now go clear at top of Group B with Fiji on three points sitting second. New Caledonia and Samoa both sit in the second half of the table with a point each.