Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Hosts Tahiti have completed a perfect three wins from three matches in round robin play, ending the title hopes of Fiji in the process at the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup in Papeete.
The two times for FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup finalists have beaten the brave Fijians 5-3 in the final round robin match and will face the Solomon Islands in Saturday’s Final. Fiji will meet Tonga in the playoff for third and fourth.
Needing to win to reach the final, Fiji gave it everything but fell behind early to a goal from Rainui Tze-Yu which put them on the backfoot. They had a great chance to level the scores in the final minute of the period when Rusiate Matarerega fired straight at the keeper and the home side took the narrowest of leads into the break.
The Tiki Toa dominated possession but struggled to break down a committed Fijian defence early in the second period. Simione Tamanisau was forced to make a couple of super saves. Heiarii Tavanae was then shown a yellow card for Tahiti lashing out in retaliation after a rough challenge. But Tahiti immediately doubled its lead when Teaonui Tehau scored in the 16th minute.
The goal didn’t damped the Fijian spirits and they were rewarded with a goal two minutes later from Merrill Nand after putting Reave Teamotuaitau under pressure in the Tahiti goal. Tamanisau was then forced into making a brilliant save to deny Tearii Labaste.
But with less than two minutes remaining in the period Tahiti were awarded a penalty and Tze-Yu scored to restore the two goal buffer for the hosts.
Into the third period and Fiji were desperate with their title hopes on the line and they made the perfect start when Matarerega headed home to close the gap to one again. When he scored his second four minutes later the scores were level and there were some nervous looking faces around the stadium. But from the kick-off Tahiti’s lead was restored when Tamatoa Tetauira’s deflected shot beat a despairing Tamanisau.
Fiji with time running out threw players but couldn’t find a way past Teamotuaitau. Tehau scored his second with a brilliant finish with three minutes to go which effectively ended the Fijian chances. But Jerry Sam’s side, returning to the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup for the first time since 2011 certainly showed enough to suggest they could become a major force in the region.
Tahiti: 5 (Rainui TZE-YU 2’, 23’, Teaonui TEHAU 16’, 33’, Tamatoa TETAUIRA 29′)
Fiji: 3 (Merrill NAND 18’, Rusiate MATAREREGA 25’, 29’)