Reigning champions Solomon Islands and Tahiti have emerged as the main contenders for Group B supremacy while New Zealand and hosts Les Cagous dominated proceeding in Group A on Match Day 1 at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2019 tournament in New Caledonia.

Tonga 2-13 Solomon Islands

Despite Tonga’s defence being breached inside the 2nd minute courtesy of skipper Elliott Ragomo who produced a clinical finish following some strong pivot work from George Stevenson, the debutants showed no sign of panic as they set out to frustrate the tournament favourites for the majority of the first half.

Keeper Mahe Malafu produced a string of saves while the men in front of him have managed to close the middle of the court to restrict the Kurukuru’s options to long range attempts.

Encouraged by their start Manu Tu’alau’s men grew in confidence to play out from the back and construct a number of meaningful attacking moves as well as real goalscoring opportunities through the lively Laulea Taufa.

Despite their bravery, Tonga’s fighting spirit was eventually broken and the floodgates opened in the last 5 minutes as they shipped six goals in quick succession.

The inspirational Ragomo added two more to complete his hat-trick while Stevenson, Coleman Makau, Jeffery Bule and Arnold Maeluma netted one each to give their side a commanding 7-0 lead at the break.

The defending champions extended their lead soon after the restart with Bule tapping into the empty net from Maeluma’s pinpoint pass before Alvin Ray made it 9-0.

At the other end Taufa and Ateneo Feao tried their luck while Malafu pulled off a couple of good saves but he couldn’t do anything about Ragomo’s fourth of the match.

Marion Sia got on the scoresheet for the Kurukuru before Soakai Vea replied for the men in red with a brilliant solo effort.

The Tongans were soon celebrating their second of the match following a well struck drive by Ateneo Feao.

Bule grabbed two quick goals to take his tally to four and cap a convincing start for the reigning champions.

Despite happy with the win, Solomon Islands coach Vinicius Laite has admitted his side must be more clinical in front of goal.

“The result is what we have expected of course, but we got too excited at most of the times and our finishing also let us down, we have created probably fifty chances if we had converted 50 percent of them we would have won by a scoreline of 25,” he said.

“I’m happy with the players’ approach to the game, the first game is always getting over that excitement and anxiety as well and now that it’s done and dusted with a positive result and we can always build up on that,” added the Futsal Whites coach.

Meanwhile his American Samoa counterpart Manu Tu’alau heaped praise on his players’ effort.

“I’m very happy with the boys, we scored two goals and I’m really happy with that because that what I was saying before that is our target, to score in every game and I’m very happy with that,”

American Samoa 0-9  New Zealand

The Futsal Whites started with speed an intent and raced to a two goal lead courtesy of Micky Malivuk and Dylan Manickum.

Following a nervous start the American Samoans have settled into to their work and almost pulled one back midway through the first half with Gabriel Taumua’s powerful drive crashing against the post.

Chris Faamoana came close to scoring but couldn’t pass Elias Billeh and the New Zealanders took full advantage at the other hand.

Manickum netted with a low drive before Malivuk smashed home as both players grabbed their brace and Josh Margetts added another at the end of the first period to open up a five goal cushion for the Kiwis.

Brayden Lissington had set up Marvin Eakins in front of goal for the Futsal Whites’ sixth at the start of the second half, but the American Samoans kept their shape to hold the Kiwis till the final five minutes of the match.

However with tiredness setting in Manickum took advantage adding two more, before Stephan Peckham finding the net.

Despite the 9-0 defeat Tunoa Lui’s men left the court with their heads held high.

Veteran keeper Nicky Salapu produced some quality saves while 18-year old Austen Kaleopa showed maturity, composure and skill to light up the court in American Samoa’s first ever futsal international.

Coach Tunoa Lui couldn’t hide his delight with the performance.

“It’s a very good start for us, we are going to work on our mistakes so we can be competitive in this tournament,” he said.

“We came into this tournament knowing that New Zealand is the best team in our pool and I take my hats off to the boys, they gave a good fight, it’s just some mistakes we really need to work on, because it could have been different in terms of the result of the game,” added the proud American Samoa coach.

Meanwhile, New Zealand player-coach Marvin Eakins, who himself contributed with a goal to the victory, was happy to start the campaign with a win.

“It’s always nice to score the goal, but it was just good to be back out there,” he said.

“Obviously Atta (Elayyan) was a lot in our thoughts, so we are just happy to get the win and the performance against a pretty spirited American Samoan team that did well, they could have got a couple of goals and I think they would have deserve that,” explained Eakins.

Fiji 1-11 Tahiti

 Neither side was able to assert dominance during the closely contested and cagey early exchanges.

It took a goalkeeping mistake by Emori Ragata to offer the first real scoring chance which was duly accepted by Akareva Riara who drove the ball into the roof of the net giving the French Polynesians the lead.

Playing in the pivot role Ioseva Verevou offered Fiji a dangerous attacking outlet while captain Setareki Hughes showed class at the back

For the Aito Arii, beach soccer, futsal and national football team international Teaonui Tehau impressed and it was the Tahitian number 12 who was the next to get on the scoresheet to double his side’s advantage.

Olivier Hirihiri grabbed another with a cool finish before Tehaunui Barsinas made it 4-nil with less than three minutes left on the clock in the opening half.

Eager to signal their championship intent the Tahitians produced a wonderful team goal finished by Tehau to go to the break five ahead.

Both Tehau and Verevou came close to scoring in opposite ends of the court in a frantic opening to the second period, before Barsinas finished a set move by slotting home from an indirect freekick laid on by Hirihiri.

Akareva Riaria provided the assist to skipper Steeve Wong’s powerful drive for the next Tahitian goal then Wong turned provider setting up Antoine Tave to make it 8-nil.

Setareki Hughes hit the post before producing a stunning effort to give Fiji something to cheer about.

Tahiti replied with a quick counter courtesy of Tehau at the end of a pass from Teivarii Kaiha before Tave converted a 10 metre penalty.

There was still time for Tehau to finish another swift counter and seal a dominant performance for the French Polynesians.

Despite their convincing victory coach Jean-Baptiste Barsinas refused to get carried away.

“It was our first match and it was important for the sake of our entire campaign to start well, so I’m happy with the result,” he said.

“However, we will need to improve both technically and tactically if we want to achieve our ultimate goal, we will have to try new things so there is still plenty of work ahead for us throughout the tournament,” Barsinas added.

Meanwhile Fiji coach Mira Sahib was left to rue his side’s slow start to the match from which they have never managed to recover.

“We gave away early goals through defensive blunders that cost us the match,” the Fiji coach lamented.

“With their early goals Tahiti gained momentum and we struggled to come back from that and implement our game plan,” Sahib added.

Vanuatu 1-11 New Caledonia

 Vanuatu playmaker Ronaldo Wilkins dictated the tempo of the match during the opening minutes and Richard Lehi’s men did find an opening inside following a decisive pass by Rhydley Napau to Sandy Mesau who didn’t make a mistake.

The hosts responded quickly through a brilliant individual goal by Christ Pei before Timothee Delaunay gave Les Cagous the lead to the delight of the home crowd inside Arena du Sud.

Juliano Schmeling’s charges gave themselves some breathing space thanks to James Namuli and an Aser Xuma header.

It got even better for New Caledonia when skipper Cedrick Humuni set up Xuma for his second of the match.

Searching for a way back into the game Lehi employed a powerplay, using the Vanuatu keeper as a fifth outfield player, but his gamble backfired as Pei drove into the unguarded net on the counter to help his side to a 6-1 half-time lead.

Eric Saihuliwa opened the scoring for the rampant Les Cagous after the restart, followed by a neat finish from Namuli for the hosts’ eights goal of the match.

Lehi persisted with the use of powerplay and Les Cagous took full advantage by adding  two more goals courtesy of Pei and Jean-Philippe Sele.

With just 6 seconds left on the clock, Saihuliwa sealed the emphatic win for Schmeling’s men.

“I’m definitely happy with the score but we still need to fix some details for tomorrow, but yeah I’m happy because today was a key game for us, our first game at home against Vanuatu which is always strong,” the New Caledonia coach said.

Meanwhile his Vanuatu counterpart admitted his side was outplayed by the hosts.

“Our game plan didn’t work out, New Caledonia was really strong,” Richard Lehi said

“I think we need to improve our defensive weaknesses but New Caledonia scored more goals.

“We were trying to use the power but unfortunately we couldn’t score from it and we made too many mistakes which New Caledonia took advantage of,” the Vanuatu coach explained.

Upcoming Matches

Group B rivals Solomon Islands and Tahiti will meet in a top of the table clash to open  proceedings on Match Day 2 of the competition before Tonga face Fiji in a must win match for both sides to keep their championship hopes alive.

In Group A, New Zealand will be up against Vanuatu next, followed by the hosts’ meeting with American Samoa to bring Tuesday’s action to a close.

Group B
Tuesday, 29 October
Arena du Sud, Paita, New Caledonia
KO: 13:00 (local)

Group B
Tuesday, 29 October
Arena du Sud, Paita, New Caledonia
KO: 15:00 (local)

Group A
Tuesday, 29 October
Arena du Sud, Paita, New Caledonia
KO: 17:00 (local)

Group A
Tuesday, 29 October
Arena du Sud, Paita, New Caledonia
KO: 19:00 (local)