New Caledonia have claimed third place at the OFC U-19 Championship with a 4-1 win over the Solomon Islands at Stade Pater this evening.
Solomon Islands started the game strongly despite leaving some of their starters on the bench.
However, the finishing in the attacking third and outstanding defending from the Francophones meant the Solomon Islanders could not find a goal as reward for their early dominance.
New Caledonia settled down midway through the first half and started threatening from wide areas.
Raoul Wenisso opened the scoring in the 30th minute to hand New Caledonia a 1-0 lead at the break.
Solomon Islands regrouped in the second half to push for an equaliser and forced New Caledonia custodian Une Kecine into making some brilliant saves to keep his side in the lead.
Second half substitute Jean-Jacques Katrawa extended the Caledonians advantage with a looping header in the 71st minute to make it 2-0.
Moments later Vita Longue added another goal to send his side 3-0 up.
Absolom Wawane scored a consolation goal in the 81st minute for Solomon Islands before Pierre Bako put the icing on the cake for New Caledonia with a fourth.
New Caledonia coach Felix Tagawa said his team deserved the 3rd place finish after a performance that showed greater desire than their Melanesian rivals.
“As we’re competitive, yes, we came here to win. It’s still an international match. We missed out on the semi-final by so little so we really wanted to finish on a good note,” he said.
“In terms of the first match of the group, we missed our perhaps, here we proved the contrary.
“We were able to get in front of an adversary who can run, and plays with the ball well.
“After the semi-final we had to dig deep, recover well and say why we are here today – we’re here for the competition, we’re here for the football. We didn’t come here to take this match as a friendly, it’s an international match and it’s for third place too.”
Solomon Islands coach Batram Suri said his team did well in the first half despite, like his opponent, making changes to his starting line-up.
“I tried to put most of the players who didn’t played in the tournament, we did very well in the first half,” he said.
“In the second half most of them wanted to come off but only three substitutions were allowed, anyway the Caledonians deserved to win the game.”
Tagawa added that his players will take home lots of experience from the tournament.
“It’s a great experience that we’ve had here and there’s a good number of them that are still 16, 17 years old.
“There’s a few that are already in the Super Ligue at this age and I’m very satisfied. Satisfied because it hasn’t been easy playing the tournament at the hours we have been to maintain our rhythm”, he stated.
Solomon Islands missed out on World Cup qualification but Suri insisted that it was a good experience for his young team.
“It was a very good experience for the boys especially as we’re still working on football development in the Solomons, these boys most of them are from the provinces and this is their first taste of international competition and I think they have done themselves proud.”