*• Tahiti miss the chance to qualify for Oceania's third stage • PNG and Solomon Islands three points behind with two games in hand • Chasing duo face each other in June *
Papua New Guinea have revived their FIFA World Cup™ qualifying hopes with a hard-fought 2-1 win away to Tahiti.
The hosts had gone into the game knowing a win would take them through to face New Zealand in November’s OFC play-off, but came up short against a determined PNG side. As a consequence, it’s now all to play for in Group B, with Tahiti still top on six points but PNG and Solomon Islands both three behind and, crucially, holding two games in hand.
The visitors had welcomed back Raymond Gunemba after a suspension, and the Lae City Dwellers captain’s speed and ability to combine with Nigel Dabinyaba on attack proved difficult for Tahiti to contain. The returning Gunemba came close to breaking the deadlock just after the half-hour mark, in fact, when his powerful shot was beaten away by Tahiti keeper Mikael Roche.
But PNG would not be denied, and their persistence paid off on 62 minutes when Patrick Aisa headed them in front. The goalscorer then turned provider 12 minutes later, battling to regain possession before setting up Gunemba to curl a shot over the despairing Roche.
A Tahiti comeback rarely looked on, although they did claim a consolation goal three minutes into stoppage time when Tauhiti Keck’s shot caught out Ronald Warisan in the PNG goal. Nonetheless, it was too little, too late, with the visitors left to celebrate a vital qualifying victory.