Goalkeeper David Plowright, who has acted as understudy to Elias Billeh for the majority of the tournament, stepped from the shadows to become the hero for New Zealand as he scored the side’s last penalty himself and then pulled off a save from opposing goalkeeper Chickau Mansale’s spot kick to give his country a 5-4 win.
Both teams suffered crushing blows to their morale yesterday at the semi-final stage and the main task facing coaches Matt Chandler and Jean-Yves Galine was lifting their players’ spirits enough to have a decent crack at third place.
The Futsal Whites missed out on a place in the final in heartbreaking fashion 24 hours ago when they lost to Tahiti on penalties while the confidence levels of Vanuatu would not have been high after they fell to a comprehensive 13-1 defeat to Solomon Islands.
It certainly looked like the sides were bereft of motivation and confidence in the opening half of today’s match – an uninspiring period of few good chances which marked the first time a half has finished goalless in the entirety of the tournament.
The best couple of chances both fell to New Zealand’s Lucas Silva but he could not beat goalkeeper Mansale, who would have been relieved to keep a first-half clean sheet after yesterday’s goal-fest.
The Futsal Whites would not be denied for much longer though and were ahead within four minutes of the second spell, Micky Malivuk volleying home after Daniel Koprivcic had hit the crossbar.
The fans inside Vodafone Arena – a gathering that was already starting to build before the highly-anticipated grand final between Tahiti and Solomon Islands – would have hoped for a raft of further goals, as they have become accustomed to so far at this tourament.
But the scoreboard was not called into action until the final minute when Lui Sifas equalised for Vanuatu with one of the last kicks of the game to send Vanuatu’s supporters wild and force the outcome to be decided from the penalty spot.
New Zealand had been through the same scenario yesterday in their semi-final and emerged on the right side of the ledger this time thanks to the heroics of Plowright.
New Zealand coach Matt Chandler:
It’s very pleasing. I’d rather have won the penalty shoot-out yesterday but it was nice. I thought our goalkeeper David Plowright was superb. He was very psychologically in the shoot-out clever and did very well. Unfortunately, we conceded with a second to go but I think we deserved to win because we played the better futsal. Nathan Robertson has retired now for us and he was superb. So was our captain Marvin Eakins and the rest of the team. We haven’t lost a game throughout the tournament in open play, only on penalties by one kick, so we have to be pleased.
Vanuatu coach Jean-Yves Galine:
We wanted to win this game and we created enough chances to do so but couldn’t take them. If you don’t finish well then it is hard to win games. It is a disappointing way to end the tournament but I want to thank everyone in Vanuatu for their support.
New Zealand – Vanuatu Match Summary click here (PDF)