Host nation Tahiti have progressed to the semi-finals of the OFC U-19 Championship 2022 after coming out on top of a combative quarter-final clash 1-0 over Vanuatu.
Manuarii Shan’s early free-kick ended up separating the sides as the semi-final make-up became clear after all four quarter-finals took place in one day at Stade Pater in Papeete.
The hosts started strongest and Vanuatu goalkeeper Brendon Tankon had to pull off a sure contender for save of the tournament to keep out Heinoa Aurentz’s header early on.
Vanuatu captain Nicolas King then tested Tankon’s opposite number Anapa Debruyne with a well-placed free-kick before Tahiti made full use of a dead ball of their own.
This time Tankon will feel he could have done better, as Shan’s low effort sneaked in at the base of his right-hand post.
Despite the early setback, Vanuatu remained dangerous going forward, centre-back King again keeping Tahiti on their toes with a swivel and hit volley which went wide.
But Tahiti finished the opening period strong with only a reflex defensive header from King denying Tekaki Sangue’s powerful drive and Hiurai Vernaudon coming close with a header of his own.
Both teams traded goalmouth scrambles early in the second-half as the game turned scrappy while Sangue was again denied, this time by Tankon.
The game continued at a frenetic pace and only an expert display of brave goalkeeping from Debruyne prevented King from levelling late on while Tahiti replacement Matai Papaura nearly ensured victory when he struck the post.
However, Vanuatu’s task became insurmountable when they were reduced to 10 men, Shem Sopuso sent off after a rash challenge, and the hosts held on to advance to the final four.
Tahiti will now face New Zealand in the semi-finals on Wednesday, September 21 with a place in the OFC U-19 Championship 2022 final and the FIFA U-20 World Cup™ 2023 up for grabs.
Tahiti U-19 1 (Manuarii SHAN 12′)
Vanuatu U-19 0