We’ve seen some fast starts in the OFC U17 Championship 2023, but none as quick as Augustine Chilia from Vanuatu in their 2-1 win over the Cook Islands.

36 seconds from kickoff is all it took for his shot to find the back of the net and put his side in the lead, which set up a maiden victory for Vanuatu in the tournament.

Vanuatu coach Emerson Alcantara made no changes to his side that battled hard in a 2-1 loss to Tahiti in their opening Group C match. His Cook Islands counterpart, Tahiri Elikana, only made one to his side that lost 6-0 to Tahiti in their first match, bringing in goalkeeper Teina Ngametua into the starting lineup.

After the frantic start and wild celebrations by the Vanuatu team, you would have been forgiven for expecting a flurry of goals to follow. However, Alcantara’s side settled back into a more defensive pattern, seemingly content for the Cook Islands to have their fair share of possession.

In fact, it was the Cooks that had the next real chance, even though it took almost half an hour. A long free kick was struck well by Shane Tuteru, but was well stopped by Vanuatu goalkeeper Joseph Nakou.

The game burst into life not long after as a set piece was the provider of the next chance at the other end. A free kick on the edge of the box after a heavy challenge by Tuteru on Yan Chilia was taken by captain Paul Takaro, who struck it well. Ngametua was forced to make a great save, then did well to keep out the follow up shot. Moments later Romain Luake’s shot thundered off the cross bar.

But while Vanuatu dominated the back end of the half, it was the Cook Islands who struck just before the break. Nakou fumbled a cross into the box, with the ball rolling out of the area and the keeper caught in no man’s land. Up stepped Jeremiah Williams who hit an opportunist shot with his left foot to send the ball into the empty net, cuing scenes of joy from the Cook Islands team as they headed to the changing rooms for halftime.

Unbelievably, Vanuatu then scored within two minutes of the restart. Jimmy Moso was the beneficiary of a scrappy situation in the area, latching onto a loose ball and sending a shot in that went across the face of Ngametua and deflected off the back post and in, for what turned out to be the winning goal.

In almost an action replay of the first half, the game then settled down into a cagey midfield battle. Vanuatu definitely had the better of any chances as the half wore on, at one point peppering the Cook Islands goal, but couldn’t find a way to completely bury the result.

Delickson Judah, Vanuatu’s goal scorer from their first game, was brought off the bench with 15 minutes to go to try and repeat his late heroics. However it was the Cook Islands that had the best late chance with a free kick at the top of the box, but Juleo Tauu’s shot didn’t make it past the wall.

Vanuatu did well to avoid letting the Cooks repeat their late goal from the first half, eventually closing the game out. The result means Vanuatu move through to the quarter finals and will finish in second place behind Tahiti in Group C.

VANUATU 2 (Augustine CHILIA 1’, Jimmy MOSO 47’)

COOK ISLANDS 1 (Jeremiah WILLIAMS 45+2’)

HT: 1-1