Tahiti and New Caledonia proved inseparable yesterday in the first of two international friendly matches made notable by the lack of goals despite many opportunities for both teams.
Despite the National Super Ligue season yet to get underway, New Caledonia put forward a fit, lively side which had Tahiti under the pump from early on.
Tahiti applied a close pressing for the first ten minutes but that proved too tough an ask for the side to hold up for the entirety of the encounter especially as New Caledonia still managed to find ways to get in behind the defence.
They made some great breaks but did little to test Tahiti goalkeeper Jonathan Torohia who made his return to international football after a break to focus on beach soccer.
The lack of New Caledonia’s match fitness started to show in the second half as Tahiti kept the tempo high. A couple of great chances fell to Teaonui Tehau that were only very near misses.
A couple of key changes from Naea Bennett, including a first international on home soil for Marama Vahiarua, kept the pressure on but again, the shots were either off-target or saved by Mickael Uliele.
The Toa Aito’s Bennett said not conceding any goals was a positive from the match which he thought, overall, was good.
“I wasn’t surprised, New Caledonia hurt us in terms of their speed, their game in the middle,” he said.
“We had some chances, we didn’t put them away, they also had some good chances that they didn’t put away either.”
Bennett said his side comprised of players who have a good head for football, who can read the game and anticipate well.
“Having these types of players is always a plus,” he said.
“We need to work on what we do in defence when we lose the ball, that’s where we had the most problems. We played a very attacking game – that’s not a criticism as I was an attacker – but we need to work on our defensive structure.”
Les Cagous coach Thierry Sardo said his side’s best chances came in the first half where they had some excellent opportunities to take the lead.
“In the second half we made it more complicated for ourselves because we allowed them to have chances of their own.
“It certainly could have been a match with a lot of goals.”
He indicated that overall it was a decent match, but one in which his side conceded too much to their opponents.
“Personally, I found that we gave too many chances away, although we also created some good attacks of our own.
“We were clearly missing something in terms of our rhythm in the second half, we haven’t started our domestic competition, we knew from that side it would be difficult.”
Sardo said the next step is to analyse the match, see where his side was lacking and where they can improve.
“They had a lot of good shots which were quite dangerous. We know the quality of the Tahitians from free kicks. When Marama Vahirua came on, we were quite often in danger.
“But overall it was a good draw. The players don’t have a lot of games in their legs and we saw that they gave as much as possible today.”
The next encounter between Tahiti and New Caledonia will once again be hosted at Stade Pater kicking off at 8pm on Friday 23 March (Saturday 24 NCLT).