Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Vanuatu has booked its place in the semi-finals of the OFC Olympic Qualifier in Auckland after a 3-1 win over Samoa in Group B at Trusts Arena.
Needing at least a draw to progress the Vanuatu side recovered from going behind early to win and end Samoa’s hopes of progressing in the competition.
Vanuatu is almost certain to face Group A winners New Zealand in Wednesday’s first semi-final at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart unless the Solomon Islands suffer a heavy loss to Tonga in the final Group B fixture this afternoon.
Needing to win the match to qualify for the semi-finals, Samoa made a promising start in cool windy conditions and after creating a couple of half-chances, deservedly took the lead in the 16th minute.
Juan Gobbi headed home from a corner. But the lead was short-lived as Vanuatu stung by the setback, hit back four minutes later with a spectacular left footed strike from outside the area from Ronn Tasarur in what shapes as a contender for goal of the tournament.
Samoa captain Kyah Cahill almost restored his side’s lead a couple of minutes later, but he couldn’t quite direct a header on target.
It was Vanuatu who went ahead in the 30th minute from the penalty spot after a rash challenge from Alex Malauulu just inside the box on George Chichirua. Referee Matthew Conger initially ruled a free kick but on consultation with Assistant referee Mark Rule, pointed to the spot. Joe Moses made no mistake firing into the left- hand corner of the net.
The Samoans pressed forward in search of an equaliser and had a couple of half chances, one a header straight at the keeper and another a volley that went just wide of the upright.
Vanuatu were brilliant on the counter and scored their third in the 38th minute when George Chichirua after a powerful run down the right delivered a pinpoint cross for Moses to head home for his second.
It was a tall order for Samoa who needed to score three more goals, but they continued to create chances with defender Kaleb De Groot-Green heading straight at Massing Kalotong in the Vanuatu goal from a freekick late in the half.
Immediately from the second half restart Greg Siamoa with a sweetly timed long range shot forced Kalotong into making a diving save as Samoa signaled its intent to try and get back into the game.
Luke Salisbury nearly pulled a goal back for Samoa 11 minutes into the second half with his shot from the edge of the box forcing another save from Kalotong.
Vanuatu were content to sit back and look for opportunities on the counter and were always a threat with their pace.
Samoa’s challenge effectively ended in the 70th minute when Jesse Vine was shown a straight red card for an elbow into the face of Chima Chillia.
Moses had a late chance to secure his hat-trick put through on goal but Bartley made a good save for Samoa.
Vanuatu: 3 (Ronn TASARUR 20’, Joe MOSES (P) 30’, 38’)
Samoa: 1 (Juan GOBBI 16’)