Tahiti gain a place in a semi-finals at the OFC Futsal Championships
Both sides’ hopes of progressing were on the line in this match, although New Caledonia were more under pressure as they needed to win. A draw would be enough for Tahiti to go through on superior goal difference so one might have expected their opponents to adopt the more attacking approach.
But it was Tahiti who went ahead first, putting themselves in a great position to book a semi-final spot when Chocolat Maperi struck in the sixth minute.
Caryl Thepinier got New Caledonia back into the game in the 14th minute and the score stayed that way until the break, setting up a grandstand second spell.
That period was just as evenly contested as the first as both sides battled to keep their hopes alive and it looked like Tahiti had one foot in the semi-finals when Capo Turihono found the target in the 35th minute.
But New Caledonia refused to lie down and levelled through Julien Drudri with just three minutes to go.
The next minute brought with it the turning point of the game when Tahiti’s Vateae Barff was dismissed. New Caledonia had an outstanding opportunity to go in front from the resulting spot kick but Cedrick Humuni could not beat goalkeeper Atanui Tetihia with his effort.
The New Caledonians then piled the pressure on four-man Tahiti but they could not find a way through as the Tahitians confirmed they would join the Solomon Islands in progressing from Group B.
New Caledonia coach Tapu Hunter:
We are very pleased with the result but not so much with the game because I don’t think we played very well. I think the players didn’t perform like they usually do because of the pressure of this game – they knew we would make the semi-finals if we got a good result. But it was a fantastic game – days like this are why we watch sport. When we had the man sent off I really thought we would lose the game. To defend for two minutes with only three outfield players is very difficult.
Tahiti coach Eric Michalak:
I don’t know what happened. We were playing five against four for two minutes but somehow we couldn’t win. It’s very hard for us to take. We played against a good team and had plenty of opportunities to win but couldn’t take them. If you don’t then you will not win – that is the reality of this sport. It’s a shame because I know we can do better.