Australia mark return to OFC with victory

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Australia celebrate winning the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational 2013, Grand Final, Malaysia v Australia, The Trusts Arena, Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday 27th July 2013. Photo: Shane WenzlickAustralia have claimed the OFC Futsal Championship Invitational 2013 title on their return to the region after beating Malaysia 5-1 in a thrilling final between the two visiting AFC sides at The Trusts Arena in Auckland, New Zealand this evening.

Malaysia’s Qaiser Abdul Kadir, one of their standout players throughout the tournament, gave his side an early lead scoring less than two minutes into the first half. However a determined Australia were not interested in going home runners up and heaped the pressure on their Asian counterparts with the tactic paying off after just nine minutes when captain Toby Seeto found the back of the net to bring his side back in line with their opponents.

Australia came out after the break with the same intensity as they searched for the winner and they finally got the advantage when Adam Cooper found the top corner. Wade Giovenali added a third for the Futsalroos followed by a second for Seeto to give them a three-goal cushion with three minutes remaining.

Despite a comfortable lead Australia continued to attack while Malaysia refused to give up either. Khairul Mohd Bahrin was brandished with a red card late in the match and it allowed the Australians to drill in the final nail with Seeto netting in the dying seconds to earn his hat-trick and the victory for his side.

Seeto says it a great feeling to lift any trophy and he is incredibly proud of his boys after they were made to work hard for this one.

“They put in a really good effort and we’re really happy to win obviously. Malaysia are a good team and they’re very much on the improve,” he says. “We’ve always had tough battles against them, last year we played out a 4-all draw. But the game is about taking your chances and we managed to take more of ours today.

“Our objective was obviously to come here and win but also to improve. A couple of boys are new to the squad so it was about blending them in and it augurs well for us in the future.”

Malaysia technical director Marcelo Serpa Coelho feels the side put in a good performance but were made to pay for their lack of a finishing touch.

“I was happy with the way we played, we scored early on and then controlled the game for a while but it was a tough game from then on,” Serpa Coelho says.

“I thought we played well in the second half and had a lot of chances to score but if you don’t score then you can’t win. That was the difference between the teams. Once Australia went 3-1 up they defended well and it was hard for us to get back into the game.”

Meanwhile in the day’s earlier match New Zealand’s 1-0 win secured them third place ahead of Tahiti to earn the only podium finish for an Oceania side.

The Futsal Whites seized the opportunity to avenge a 3-0 aggregate series loss to the Tahitians during their tour of French Polynesia earlier this year taking hold of the match with an early effort from Daniel Burns.

Tahiti found themselves on the back foot just give five minutes into the match when Burns found himself in the right spot at the far post to knock the ball in and give the local side an advantage. With both sides having demonstrated their ability to defend during the previous four days of action, Tahiti were always going to find it a hard task to come back.

The Futsal Whites kept their shape well frustrating the visitors who never gave up their fight for an equaliser. Mote Tino once again stood out for the Aito Arii as he constantly challenged the Kiwis’ defensive line with goalkeeper Elias Billeh forced into action on a number of occasions. However it was by no means a vacation at the other end for Tahiti keeper Teva Durot who was called into action on more than one occasion as the Kiwis launched a number of counter attacks of their own. But it was the New Zealanders time to shine on this occasion as they managed to hold their opponents out to secure third place.

It was a disappointing result for Tahiti coach Heitapu Hunter after his side performed outstandingly in the previous day’s semi-final against Malaysia.

“New Zealand defended well against us. They waited for us and unfortunately they scored early and kept waiting for us. We just weren’t able to score a goal,” Hunter says.

“Compared with when we played them at home New Zealand are more serious on defence, they attack less in the open and give away less but they have really improved in defence.”

Futsal Whites coach Scott Gilligan says a sensational performance from his side gave them the edge on this occasion.

“I think we kept possession superbly in the first half, we got the goal which helped us of course, but our concentration was making sure we didn’t concede,” Gilligan says.

Looking ahead to the qualifiers for the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup, Gilligan says his team will have to continue building on the foundations they have laid during this tournament.

“The qualifiers are a whole different ball game again. It’s been a tremendous job by these guys but they have to keep working at it because I know Tahiti are going to come back even stronger in 2015.”

In the tournament’s individual awards, New Zealand’s Dylan Manickum secured the Golden Boot with nine goals, five of which came in his first match against Solomon Islands. Australia’s Angelo Konstantinou was awarded the Golden Gloves while his captain Toby Seeto won Golden Ball for most outstanding player in the tournament. The Fair Play award went to the NZ Invitational side.

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