TAHITI – AS Pirae and AS Dragon have closed the gap on Championnat D1 leaders AS Tefana to just two points after both teams sealed crucial victories last night. Pirae welcomed the return of Jose Hmae to their ranks as they clincially dispatched AS Vaiete 3-0 to surge into third place on the D1 league table.
AS Dragon achieved their victory under rather more dramatic circumstances thanks to a goal from Jeremy Dubois four minutes into injury time after a Phillipe Gueleme penalty in the 90th minute had looked to have sealed a draw for Tamarii Faaa.
The two victories give the D1 league table a familiar look about it with Tefana, Dragon and Pirae occupying the top three slots. Tahiti U-20 – beaten 2-1 by Tefana on Saturday – drop into fourth spot. The only unusual feature is that of the bottom-placed team, defending champions AS Manu Ura, currently away at the 2008 Coupe de l’Outre-Mer in France.
The two newcomers to D1 – Excelsior and AS Vaiete – occupy 8th and 9th spot respectively and will be eager to collect further points to avoid a relegation play-off dog-fight later in the season. Both teams face catch-up matches with AS Manu Ura.
HMAE MAKES HEROIC RETURN TO PIRAE
AS Vaiete (0) 0
AS Pirae (1) 3 (Williams 15, 75, Terautoa 77)
New Caledonian international midfielder Jose Hmaé made an emotional return to French-Polynesia and "Les Oranges" yesterday as he helped inspire a resurgent AS Pirae to a classy 3-0 win over newly promoted AS Vaiete.
In an entertaining match, Pirae and Vaiete threw caution to the wind to produce an end-to-end encounter of fast-paced attacking football that left fans on the edge of their seats for much of the 90 minutes.
Pirae – without skipper Naea Bennett for the next seven weeks – turned to the mercurial Hmaé who assumed the mantle of the talismanic Bennett as if he had never left the territory for AS Magenta just over a year ago.
After a frenetic opening both sides continued to miss gilt-edged chances.
Pirae capatilised on Vaiete’s profligacy in front of goal when it took the lead on 15 minutes after Axel Williams broke free on the right before hitting home a wonderful opener for "Les Oranges".
Vaiete coach Marcel Deane could be forgiven for feeling hard done by after his team produced some scintillating football.
Vaiete confidence soared when Rainui Rua struck a raking long range drive on 33 minutes but his shot just missed the target.
Marc Vaki could have handed Vaiete a lifeline just before the break but could only send his close range shot wide of the Pirae goal.
In the second-half, Pirae took greater control of the match as Vaiete morale began to flag.
Missed chances by the normally clinical, Hiro Labaste, Valery Atrewe and Jose Hmaé, gave Vaiete slim hope of pulling a goal back.
Jose Hmaé could have had Pirae two goals to the good on 63 minutes but his shot hit the post.
Within moments, Vaiete striker, Thierry Qaeze, unleashed a strong effort that forced Pirae keeper, Ricky Fassain, into ain important save.
Pirae killed the match off on 75 minutes when Axel Williams latched onto a Hmaé cross to make it 2-0.
Takaio Terautoa made it 3-0 on 77 minutes heading past the Vaiete goalkeeper to hand Pirae all four points and consign Vaiete to bottom spot.
It was an impressive performance by Pirae who look to be back to their best after a dismal 2007/08 season.
The arrival of Jose Hmaé looks set to boost "Les Oranges" and a return to the halcyon days when Pirae finished runners-up in the old OFC Club Championship in 2006 could be on the cards.
DRAGON SEAL WIN IN LAST MINUTE GOAL DRAMA
AS Dragon (0) 2 (Samuel Hnanyine 50, Jeremy Dubois 90+4)
Tamarii Faaa (0) 1 (Gueleme 90 pen)
Two goals in the dying moments capped a night of drama and intrigue in Championnat D1 as red-hot goal hero Jeremy Dubois heaped agony on stricken Tamarii Faa’a after his 94th minute injury-time winner saw AS Dragon snatch a crucial Championnat D1 victory in Puuari yesterday.
Tamarii Faaa had trailed Dragon 1-0 after 50 minutes when Samuel Hnanyine gave his team the lead.
But Faaa looked to have snatched a crucial two points when Dragon skipper Stephan Gelima appeared to handle the ball in the area for a stonewall penalty decision on 90 minutes.
The spot-kick was scored effortlessly by Faaa’s Phillipe Gueleme – his first goal of the season – and that appeared to be the final word of an enthralling match.
Dragon – considered real title prospects this season – looked deflated for all money until a hopeful ball forward found Dubois who combined with Heirani Bennett to score a dramatic winner four minutes into time added on.
The win propels Dragon into second place just two points adrift of unbeaten AS Tefana.
AS Pirae are level on points with Dragon and Tahiti U-20 drop into fourth place.
RESULTS – 29.09.08
AS Vaiete vs. AS Pirae 0-3
Tamarii Faaa vs. AS Dragon 1-2
STANDINGS – 29.09.08
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