Host nation Tahiti light up the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with a lively 3-2 win against United Arab Emirates in front of a raucous Papeete crowd.
The first ever match for a host nation in a FIFA tournament on Pacific Islands soil ended with victory for the flamboyant locals, although they were made to work hard for all three points.
Tahiti performed a rousing pre-match Polynesian Haka and they took that energy into the opening period, and duly led 2-0 by the end of the first interval.
Pivot Raimoana Bennett secured a slice of history by netting on 4 minutes, 25 seconds with a strike that brought a roar rarely heard in the capital of French Polynesia.
Veteran Tahiti star Teva Zaveroni doubled the lead soon after with a spectacular effort from long-range that even the athletic but over-worked goalkeeper Mohamed Aljasmi was unable to prevent.
It was soon 3-0 as Raimana Li Fung Kuee, fresh from scoring a treble in Tahiti’s final pre-tournament international against Australia last Friday, cracked home a sweet strike.
However, Hasan Alhammadi pulled a goal back with a scrambled effort midway through the second period. Within two minutes Haitham Alkaabi had reduced the deficit with an opportunistic deflection and suddenly the contest was alive again.
Tahiti were not to be denied, however, and they survived a tense finale to leave them one win away from the knockout stage.