FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup 2011 - OFC Qualifier Tahiti
25 Feb 2011
Heartbreaking first victory for Tahiti
ahiti sent home fans into ecstasy after snatching a 6-5 win over Fiji on Match Day 2 of the OFC Beach Soccer Championship 2011 in Papeete. The hosts needed to overcome a 3-1 deficit to score five goals in the final third and cause heartbreak for Fiji, who exit the tournament having already lost to the Solomon Islands 9-4.
Team manager Fabrice Marchand was a picture of joy after the victory, which guarantees Tahiti a place in Saturday’s final regardless of their result in the final group match against the Solomon Islands tomorrow. “I’m very, very happy and I congratulate my players. All the credit has to go to them,” said Marchand. “I also want to thank the fans that came because they really made the difference today. It was a nervous final minute when Fiji scored their fifth goal, but we did well to hold on.”
The 0-0 scoreline after the first 12-minute period fails to give an accurate account of the early action, which was end to end from the opening whistle. It was Fiji who broke the deadlock on 14 minutes when Sandeep Nair’s long range effort bounced awkwardly for goalkeeper Jonathon Torohia and into the bottom corner. Tainui Lehartel equalized after 20 minutes before Rajnesh Raju and Ratu Josefata Dugucagi fired home for Fiji to take a 3-1 lead.
Having squandered a number of chances throughout the match, Tahiti finally found their shooting boots in the third and final period when they used target man Naea Bennett to good effect. And indeed it was the captain who pulled one back in the 27th minute after a pinpoint throw from his goalkeeper. Teiva Izal had an easy tap in moments later before veteran Teva Zaveroni gave Tahiti their first lead amid wild celebrations from the fans.
The mounting pressure told as Fiji goalkeeper Benaminio Mateinaqara made an uncharacteristic error misjudging a long throw from his counterpart and tipping the ball into his own net. Dugucagi scored his fourth of the tournament to make it 5-4 before an Izal penalty kick gave his side a two-goal cushion with a minute to play. Just as Tahiti thought they were safe, a diving header from Fiji’s Maciu Dunadamu 10 seconds later made it a nail-biting finish for the lively crowd.
Speaking after the match, Fiji coach Intiaz Khan said it was a rollercoaster of emotions: “Even when we were down 5-3 I was confident we would win and we came so close. Losing in this way is sad,” said Khan. “The fans really helped to lift them and we made some silly mistakes giving away goals under pressure. It hurts a lot. But you can see from the crowd they loved the way Fiji played today. And after a bit of time I think we can reflect and still take heart from the performances this week.The players have learned a lot. We’ve seen what the standard is and we are not far away. I think it is all about experience. With more experience comes composure and I think that is what we were lacking, but next time we will be better prepared.”