Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Vanuatu have kept their hopes live of qualifying for the semi-finals at the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier after a 3-0 win over Tonga at The Trusts Arena in Auckland.
Both sides had come off 3-0 defeats by Samoa and the Solomon Islands respectively and the result means Tonga are effectively eliminated from semi-final contention while Vanuatu will need a result against Samoa in their final group game to have a chance of progressing.
In perfect sunny conditions Vanuatu got off to a brilliant start as Nicolas King headed them in front from a 5th minute corner. The Tongans struggled to get a foothold into the game and George Chichirua doubled the lead on 24 minutes when he danced past several would-be tacklers into the area and fired a left footed shot past a despairing Nimilote Moala in the Tongan goal.
Vanuatu continued to carve out chances but couldn’t convert a myriad of opportunities late in the half.
They should have put the game to bed six minutes into the second half when substitute Giniho Tabe fired wide after a pinpoint cross was delivered into the penalty box by Chichirua.
AJ Zacharie came within a whisker of extending the lead in the 64th minute when a beautiful through ball found him 40 metres out but after a nice run into the box his left footed shot went just wide.
Two minutes later Tonga were reduced to 10 men when defender Kulisitofa Kite received a second yellow card after a cynical trip.
It went from bad to worse for the Tongans when Giniho Tabe fired into the left-hand corner of the net with a stinging right foot shot in the 69th minute to effectively secure the three points for Vanuatu. A second headed goal from King with 8 minutes remaining put the gloss on a solid victory.
Vanuatu will face Samoa and Tonga meet the Solomon Islands in the final round of Group B fixtures on Sunday.
Vanuatu: 4 (Nicolas KING 5′ 82′, George CHICHIRUA 24′, Giniho TABE 69′)