Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Vanuatu produced an excellent second-half performance to overcome a stubborn Samoa side and book their place in the Play-off for 5th place at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023.

Having failed to qualify for the semi-finals despite some impressive performances in the group stage, Vanuatu dominated the early exchanges and were duly rewarded in the 6th minute when Yassin Berukilukilu opened the scoring.

Four minutes later and they had their second. Keshly Joseph completing off a fine passing move with a neat finish from close range to put Vanuatu in charge.

Samoa however rallied impressively and two goals in the space of 60 seconds gave them parity. Two almost identical counter-attacks led to two equally calm finishes – first from captain Vaa Taualai and then from the pacey Michael Tumua Leo.

Leo came close to completing the turnaround but his effort from just outside the area thudded the crossbar and Vanuatu escaped to the half-time break on level terms.

Midway through the second-half Jayson Timatua – one of Vanuatu’s standout performances in the tournament – gave his side a precious lead. Collecting the ball on the right-hand side, he unleashed a ferocious effort that crashed in off the underside of the bar.

Samoa came within a whisker of equalising with ten minutes remaining but through a combination of post and a sprawling save from Heheina Hadye, Vanuatu survived.

A flurry of late goals ensured Vanuatu’s progression in the play-off stage, with Berukilukilu’s second goal the pick of the bunch – a fierce effort following a quick set-play routine.

A late consolation goal from Tumua Leo gave his side something to celebrate but the result had long escaped Samoa.

Vanuatu: 6 (Yassin BERUKILUKILU  6′ 37′, Keshly JOSEPH 10′ 33′ 34′, Jayson TIMATUA 29′)
Samoa: 3 (Vaa TAUALAI 14′, Michael TUMUA LEO 14′, 39′)

HT: 2-2