Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

The Solomon Islands and New Caledonia have played out a thrilling 2-2 draw to end day one at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 in Auckland.

Tournament heavyweights the ‘Kurukuru’ seeking to represent Oceania at the FIFA Futsal World Cup for the fifth straight time were staring down the barrel of a stunning first up defeat trailing 2-0 at half-time. But a second half brace from Micah Lea’alafa rescued a point for Damon Shaw’s side.

The fact New Caledonia stayed in the contest was down in large part to the heroics of their goalkeeper Matthieu Wassin who made a series of incredible saves to deny the Solomon Islands attack in a player of the match performance.

Lea’alafa was denied by the crossbar in search of the winner and a personal hat-trick four and a half minutes from full-time before George Stevenson thundered the ball towards the New Caledonia goal with three minutes remaining only to be denied by the incredible reflexes of Wassin. Charlie Otainao then had a chance to win it in the dying minutes from the penalty spot but fired wide.

The small but lively crowd at the Bruce Pulman Arena were enthralled throughout the 40-minute contest in which the Solomon Islands laid siege almost constantly on the New Caledonia goal.

Lea’alafa had the first shot in anger forcing a good save out of Wassin in the 4th minute.

But against the run of play New Caledonia took a shock 6th minute lead with their first shot when Christ Pei broke down the right and fired a super shot into the far corner of the net past Lordrick Afia in the Solomon Islands goal.

Lea’alofa has a chance from long range to level the scores seeing Wassin off his line, but the keeper was able to tip the ball over the bar in the 10th minute.

Two minutes later Eddie Kasute’e forced a terrific reflex save from Wassin as the Solomon Islands turned up the heat. Wassin was at it again six minutes out from half-time to deny Elis Mana when he was clean through on goal.

New Caledonia continued to soak up the pressure and looked for any opportunities on the counter and they doubled their lead with their second chance of the game four minutes from half-time with a powerful right foot shot from Emmanuel Hmaen.

Wassin stuck an arm out to stop Calvin Do’oro from pulling a goal back just before the break.

A relief for Solomon Islands then to rescue a point though undoubtedly disappointment will be felt on both sides with the points shared.

Solomon Islands: 2 (Micah LEA’ALAFA 22’, 30’)
New Caledonia: 2 ( Christ PEI 6’, Emmanuel HMAEN 16’)

HT 0-2

Defending champions New Zealand have made an impressive start to their OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 campaign with a 6-3 win over Vanuatu in their Group A opener at Auckland’s Bruce Pulman Arena.

The damage was done in a blistering first half performance from the Futsal Whites who were simply superb in front of goal, ending a the game as a contest in the first spell with five different players finding the back of the net to give Marvin Eakins side a 5-0 lead at the break.

To their credit Vanuatu fought back in the second spell winning the half 3-1.

New Zealand skipper Dylan Manickum led from the front and fired his side into a second minute lead with a blistering right foot shot which beat Vanuatu goalkeeper Anthony Quai at his near post.

Stephen Ashby Peckham came close to doubling the lead on a couple of occasions as New Zealand laid siege on the Vanuatu goal.

Vanuatu’s best chance in the opening stanza fell to Kevin Donald in the 7th minute but his shot on target was well blocked by Mike Antamanov in the New Zealand goal.

New Zealand duly doubled their lead in the 9th minute when Rahan Ali blasted home after a superb pass from Oban Hawkins. Logan Wiesnewski made it 3-0 three minutes later with a curling right foot shot into the corner after a freekick was played square across the goal.

The Futsal Whites suffered an injury setback late in the half when Antamanov hobbled off with a lower leg injury and was replaced by Patrick Steele.

There was still time for New Zealand to score two goals in the final two minutes of the half with impressive strikes from Casey Sharplin and Oban Hawkins.

When Sharplin scored the sixth goal for New Zealand five minutes into the second spell, it looked as if the Kiwis would run away with it.

But Vanuatu never gave up and were rewarded three minutes later when captain Michel Coulon scrambled the ball own after putting the Kiwi defence under pressure. Then two minutes later Kemly Lehi fired home to finish a sweeping move down the court after Vanuatu won a turnover in the New Zealand half.

Kevin Donald with a lovely finish scored Vanuatu’s third goal three minutes from the end and although they didn’t win, the second half performance will give Vanuatu plenty of confidence for their remaining fixtures against Tonga and Fiji.

New Zealand: 6 (Dylan MANICKUM 2’, Rahan ALI 9’, Logan WISNEWSKI 12’, Casey SHARPLIN 19’, 25’, Oban HAWKINS 20’)
Vanuatu: 3 (Michel COULON 28’, Kemly LEHI 30’, Kevin DONALD 27′)

HT 5-0

Fiji got off to the perfect start in their OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 campaign with an impressive 9-0 victory over Tonga in Auckland.

In what was a physical and intense encounter, Fiji got off to the perfect start inside the first nine minutes when Ramnzan Khan fired an effort from distance past Tonga goalkeeper Semisi Otukolo to give his side the lead.

Tonga almost found a way to level matters minutes after going behind but Hemaloto Polovili’s effort was well held by Fiji ‘keeper Kitione Baleloa.

Two goals in the final eight minutes of the first-half put the Fijians in a strong position that would prove to be insurmountable. First Merrill Nand showed great skill to turn his man and then firing into the roof of the net, before Bruce Hughes found himself one-on-one with the ‘keeper and slotted away well.

A pair of goals from captain Filipe Baravilala inside the opening minutes of the second-half put his side in cruise control, with Bruce Hughes chipping in with another to make it 6-0.

Rajneel Singh made it seven in the same minute as Hughes’ second before Baravilala completed with hat-trick with two minutes remaining. Merrill Nand grabbed his second and Fiji’s ninth with seconds left on the clock to cap off a perfect start to the tournament for Fiji.

Fiji: 9 (Ramzan KHAN ‘8, Merrill NAND 13′ 40′, Bruce HUGHES 18′, 26′, Filipe BARAVILALA 21′, 23′ 38′, Rajneel SINGH 26’,
Tonga: 0

HT: 3-0

Tahiti put in an impressive second-half performance to power their way past Samoa and secure all three points in their opening Group B fixture.

A late first-half goal from Michel Maihuri gave the Tahitians a priceless lead after a first twenty minutes in which Samoa had looked the more threatening side.

Samuelu Malo went close for Samoa on two occasions, including a rasping effort that thudded back off the base of the post as his side did everything but score in the first period.

Tahiti came out for the second twenty with a greater sense of purpose and drive and scored two crucial goals in the space of sixty seconds to put themselves in control. Vincent Tinomoe and then Keanu Maihuri both capped off excellent passing moves to kill off ay Samoan hopes of a comeback.

Maihuri added his second and Tahiti’s fourth in the 34 minute and the performance was complete two minutes later when Michel Maihuri grabbed his second with a smart finish through the legs of goalkeeper Osa Savelio.

Tahiti: 5 (Michel MAIHURI 17′ 36′, Vincent TINOMOE 29′, Keanu MAIHURI 30′, 34′)
Samoa: 0

HT: 1-0