Solomon Islands champions Kooline made history by securing the first ever OFC Futsal Champions League title on offer with a thrilling victory over AS PTT Noumea in Sunday’s title decider at Auckland’s Barfoot and Thompson Stadium.
Meanwhile local hopefuls AFF Futsal picked up the bronze medal after cruising past Tahiti’s As Pirea in the third place play-off and Fiji’s Suva Futsal finished their campaign in fifth spot courtesy of a penalty shoot-out win over D’York Street from Vanuatu.
Kooline FC 7-5 AS PTT Noumea
New Caledonian outfit AS PTT started the inaugural OFC Futsal Champions League title decider brightly, with a great early opportunity falling to Marcel Hnepeune who had two chances but couldn’t find the target.
Kooline looked dangerous, particularly from set pieces, but it was from open play when Benjamin Mana and Elis Mana combined for the opening goal.
The Solomon Islands champions started to look comfortable in possession but AS PTT were still creating some good chances on the break, without being able to trouble the keeper.
A dramatic red card to Kurukuru talisman Alvin Hou midway through the first half stunned Kooline and completely changed the momentum of the game.
AS PTT, aided by the one man advantage, responded immediately through Hary Hmaloko and from then it was end to action until triple international Robert Laua drove home Elis Mana’s pass.
The New Caledonians responded immediately with a cool finish from Christ Pei who chipped the goalkeeper and the teams went into the break 2-2.
Christ Pei latched onto a long ball and rounded the keeper to steer home and AS PTT went ahead 3-2 to set up a thrilling second half.
The Noumea-based side took a more direct approach and with eight minutes left on the clock, Hmaloko ended a swift counter attack with a fine finish to give Michel Wassin’s team a two-goal cushion.
Elias Mana found a third goal for Kooline following a corner but moments later AS PTT goalkeeper scored a sensational long-range chip to make it 5-3.
The game entered the final five minutes which saw a series of counter attacks from both sides and Benjamin Mana’s goal meant a thrilling finale would be inevitable.
It was Elis Mana’s turn next to slot home from a wide angle to even the ledger and from there AS PTT froze.
Benjamin Mana gave the lead to Kooline following a wonderful interplay with Laua before Elis Mana completed his hat-trick to seal the dramatic win with a sensational inch-perfect looping shot from in front of his own goalmouth.
Victorious coach Michael Wassin couldn’t his delight following the pulsating encounter.
“It was a very exciting, an excellent game and I feel so proud and very happy,” he enthused.
“We made history and it’s been a great year for Solomon Islands futsal with Kooline winning here and the Kurukuru qualifying for the World Cup.
“I’m very proud of my players, they never gave up,” Wassin pointed out.
”Even when our key payer Alvin Hou was sent off they kept fighting and delivering, I trusted them and believed in them when they were two goals behind and time running out, I’m very proud of the boys.
“We made history for our nation our family back home and also for the fans here,” the delighted Kooline coach added.
Meanwhile AS PTT star Cedrick Humuni wasn’t looking for excuses.
“It was a close final, very little difference between the teams and a few small details decided the outcome, but credit to Kooline, they deserved their win.
“It’s been a fantastic tournament and we are disappointed after losing the final but also proud of our performances throughout the tournament and also proud to finish second,” Humuni said.
3rd / 4th PLACE PLAY-OFF
AFF Futsal 7-0 AS Pirae Futsal
The play-off for 3rd and 4th was always going to be keenly contested affair, and after some intense early exchanges, Josh Margetts fired home to give AFF the lead.
Auckland appeared to have the edge despite the high pressing of AS Pirae and when Hamish Grey scored directly from a corner, the home side went to the break two up.
Pirae continued with their pressure game, but the quality of the hosts’ finishing made the difference.
When Grey finished expertly from a second half corner, Auckland were well in command.
Adam Paulsen’s superb first touch took him clear of the defence and he rounded the keeper to make it 4-0, capping a memorable week for one of the youngest players of the tournament.
A sensational pass from Marvin Eakins found the superb Grey, who completed his hat-trick with a wonderful turn and finish.
Pirae had no alternative but to fly their keeper, and when the Tahitians lost possession, Stephen Ashby rolled the ball into the empty net.
Sean McIntee was another who completed a fine week’s work, rolling home from a wide angle to make it 7-0.
AFF player-coach Marvin Eakins was pleased with his side’s final outing of the competition.
“We have been hoping to get this kind of performance a few games earlier but it’s been such a great tournament to be part of and we are really happy that it came together and we could get some goals in that last game,” he explained before moving onto praising the historic championship.
“It’s been a really, really huge occasion, the standards were really high, it’s certainly a step above our national league, so it’s going to be exciting for future New Zealand teams to play in this,” Eakins added.
5th / 6th PLACE PLAY-OFF
D’York Street 3-3 Suva Futsal (1-3 on penalties)
In Sunday’s opening match for fifth place Suva raced to a two goal lead following an own goal by Zidane Bong who accidently headed over his own keeper from a long throw from Fiji keeper, before Akitesh Vishal Kumar doubled Suva’s advantage with a well-struck low drive.
The Port Vila-based outfit fought back courtesy of Bong who tapped in from close range after being set up by the lively Moffat Kiriau who got himself on the scoresheet soon after with a neat finish to level the scores going into the break.
In the second period D’York kept creating chances but they were punished for their inability to convert when the Fijians restored their lead through another own goal, this time by Tommy Godden.
The Vanuatu champions managed to level the scores again thanks to another fine assist by Kiriau setting up Stephan Sandy.
With the scored locked at 3-3 at the end of regulation time the match was decided by a penalty shoot-out, in which misses by Julien Leye and Aubert Tales gifted the win to the Fijians.
FAIR PLAY AWARD: AFF FUTSAL
GOLDEN GLOVES: JOSEPH HAOATA (AS PIRAE FUTSAL)
GOLDEN BOOT: BENJAMIN MANA (KOOLINE) – 8 GOALS
ATTA ELAYYAN AWARD – YOUNG PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT: ADAM LARCE-PAULSEN (AFF)
GOLDEN BALL: CHRIST PEI (AS PTT NOUMEA)