Tahiti got the defence of their OFC Nations Cup title off to a smooth start with a 4-0 win over Samoa, while hosts Papua New Guinea held on to secure a point against New Caledonia.
Despite the comfortable victory, Tahiti coach Ludovic Graugnard will know his side have more to do if they are to pick up a second Nations Cup title. It all began very brightly, though as Teaonui Tehau struck twice in the opening five minutes, first controlling superbly and slicing home, then rising high to head when left unmarked at a corner.
The Tahitians’ dominance during the opening period continued as, ten minutes later, Steevy Chong Hue volleyed fabulously into the top corner from the edge of the box. Alvin Tehau then had a goal ruled out for offside, but got on the scoresheet at the second time of asking with a crisp curling shot from the edge of the box.
However, the *Toa Aito's *tempo dropped and Samoa shored up their backline to frustrate the side who appeared at the FIFA Confederations Cup Brazil 2013. A brief resurgence saw slick moves create opportunities for Fred Tisso and Temarii Tinorua, with the former rattling the bar, but ultimately it was a half that will hearten Samoa in their search of a spot in the next round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying.
Earlier, PNG were left fighting for a 1-1 draw as New Caledonia failed to take advantage of the home side being reduced to ten men in the closing stages. The 2012 runners-up had the ball in the back of the net inside ten minutes, but Jean-Philippe Saiko had drifted offside before heading past Ronald Warisan.
The hosts had looked up against it, but a delightful chipped through-ball by Emmanuel Simon found Tommy Semmy streaking through the middle, and his deft finish with the outside of the foot put them ahead. New Caledonia continued to look a threat from the flanks, but a needless second yellow in the second half for Semmy saw the momentum shift heavily in the favour of Thierry Sardo’s side.
And that pressure told soon after as Jefferson Dahite burst down the right to pick out Saiko, who expertly volleyed home. They should have punished PNG further in stoppage time as Joel Wakanumune was scythed down for a last-gasp penalty, but Cesar Zeoula’s effort crashed off the underside of the bar.
*Papua New Guinea 1-1 New Caledonia
Tahiti 4-0 Samoa
*Group A return to action on Tuesday where both semi-final spots could be secured should New Zealand and Solomon Islands beat Vanuatu and Fiji respectively. *