Vanuafoot > News > 2011 OFC-20 Competition New Zealand > Action aplenty on opening day

Action aplenty on opening day

Vanuatu and Solomon Islands both began their campaigns with wins before Fiji and Papua New Guinea fought out a scoreless draw in a trio of matches that produced 11 goals and saw three players sent from the field.
Vanuatu and American Samoa had the honour of raising the curtain and the slick Vanuatuans took full advantage of being centre stage by knocking seven unanswered goals past their opponents.
The first goal of the tournament arrived just after the quarter hour mark when a deep cross from Didier Kalip found its way to a dangerous area at the far post and caused panic among goalkeeper Rhine Samuelu and his defenders. Samuelu, who is also skipper of the side, failed to gather the ball under pressure and it dropped at the feet of striker Jean Kaltak for him to toe over the line.
Eddison Stephen and Pascal Chabot both hit sweetly-struck long-range efforts to make it 3-0 at the break and it was clear by that stage that it was going to be a long day for American Samoa coach Rupeni Luvu.
The thoughts of Luvu and his players would have been turning towards the fulltime whistle as early as the 61st minute when Vanuatu added a fourth goal to their tally through Brian Kaltak, the cousin of Jean.
Kalip and Moses Moli-Kalontang added further goals in the 67th and 78th minutes to complete the scoring and put American Samoa out of their misery.
Vanuatu coach Moise Poida admits his side were expected to win but was nonetheless delighted with the manner of the performance.
“American Samoa are not of the same standard as Fiji or Papua New Guinea so I would prefer my boys to play them first and feel their way into the competition,” Poida says. “The team has been together for two years so they have been given the chance to bond and get used to each other’s games. There is a good feeling within the squad at the moment.”
Luvu struggled to take any positives and, with further group matches to go against Fiji and Papua New Guinea, knows the task doesn’t get any easier for his side.
“We made a lot of mistakes and we need to look at what went wrong in those areas,” he says. “We’re going to have to work really hard on getting things right.”
There was no shortage of goals or drama in the second match either as the Solomon Islands took advantage of the dismissal of two New Caledonia players to post a 3-1 win.
In a physical encounter that threatened to boil over on several occasions, it was New Caledonia who drew first blood, getting the scoring underway in just the sixth minute through Pascal Kenon.
But the lead wasn’t to last long and the Mamulas found themselves back on level terms by the 28th minute. New Caledonia captain Patrick Qaeze brought down midfielder Toata Tigi in the box and referee Peter O’Leary had not hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Star Solomon striker Dennis Ifunaoa stepped up to dispatch it and his side received a further boost just before half-time when New Caledonia midfielder Jean Claude Jewine was sent from the field for a second bookable offence.
It was always going to be hard for New Caledonia to keep their opponents quiet in the second spell with only ten men and that task got even harder in the 57th minute when their numbers were reduced further to nine.
Robert Dokunengo was adjudged to have committed a foul in the box and the setback of his sending off was made worse by the successful penalty attempt, taken again by Ifunaoa for his second of the day.
Solomon Islands coach Noel Wagapu was pleased with the victory and relieved to make it through the 90 minutes with the full complement of players.
“The boys played well today and we are happy to get our first three points on the board,” he says.
“Each member of the starting eleven played according to plan and I think the midfield, Augustine Samani and Leonard Rokoto, drove the team on. We had further opportunities to score but didn’t put them away because New Caledonia defended well and the goalkeeper was in good form.”
After all that action in the first two matches, the last clash of the afternoon could easily have been viewed as a disappointment. But, despite the lack of goals, there was still plenty of excitement and another talking point in the form of the day’s third sending off.
The match had only been underway for a matter of seconds when Fiji’s Ravinesh Singh received his marching orders for a high foot on Papua New Guinea goalkeeper Jacob Senat. But Papua New Guinea could not make the most of their numerical advantage and luck was not on their side when the best opportunity of the match arrived in the 31st minute.
The Fiji goal appeared to lead a charmed existence when striker Lap Embel got to a bouncing through ball and lobbed an effort over goalkeeper Akuila Mateisuva. It appeared to be dropping into the net but instead struck the crossbar before bouncing on the line and hitting the woodwork again, this time the right-hand post.
Fiji coach Ravinesh Kumar was frustrated not to begin with a win but refused to blame the sending off for his side’s failure to take three points.
“We would have done better with 11 players obviously but even with 10 we created some good chances and still could have won the match. We will have to work on our discipline because we can’t afford to have any more cards.”
Papua New Guinea’s Max Foster was by far the more pleased of the two coaches.
“They had a few chances to score but we had a great one too when the ball bounced off the bar and the post,” he says. “If Vanuatu can hold Fiji to a draw as well then we have a good chance of going through.”