The Solomon Islands and New Caledonia have played out a thrilling 2-2 draw to end day one at the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 in Auckland.
Tournament heavyweights the ‘Kurukuru’ seeking to represent Oceania at the FIFA Futsal World Cup for the fifth straight time were staring down the barrel of a stunning first up defeat trailing 2-0 at half-time. But a second half brace from Micah Lea’alafa rescued a point for Damon Shaw’s side.
The fact New Caledonia stayed in the contest was down in large part to the heroics of their goalkeeper Matthieu Wassin who made a series of incredible saves to deny the Solomon Islands attack in a player of the match performance.
Lea’alafa was denied by the crossbar in search of the winner and a personal hat-trick four and a half minutes from full-time before George Stevenson thundered the ball towards the New Caledonia goal with three minutes remaining only to be denied by the incredible reflexes of Wassin. Charlie Otainao then had a chance to win it in the dying minutes from the penalty spot but fired wide.
The small but lively crowd at the Bruce Pulman Arena were enthralled throughout the 40-minute contest in which the Solomon Islands laid siege almost constantly on the New Caledonia goal.
Lea’alafa had the first shot in anger forcing a good save out of Wassin in the 4th minute.
But against the run of play New Caledonia took a shock 6th minute lead with their first shot when Christ Pei broke down the right and fired a super shot into the far corner of the net past Lordrick Afia in the Solomon Islands goal.
Lea’alofa has a chance from long range to level the scores seeing Wassin off his line, but the keeper was able to tip the ball over the bar in the 10th minute.
Two minutes later Eddie Kasute’e forced a terrific reflex save from Wassin as the Solomon Islands turned up the heat. Wassin was at it again six minutes out from half-time to deny Elis Mana when he was clean through on goal.
New Caledonia continued to soak up the pressure and looked for any opportunities on the counter and they doubled their lead with their second chance of the game four minutes from half-time with a powerful right foot shot from Emmanuel Hmaen.
Wassin stuck an arm out to stop Calvin Do’oro from pulling a goal back just before the break.
A relief for Solomon Islands then to rescue a point though undoubtedly disappointment will be felt on both sides with the points shared.
Solomon Islands: 2 (Micah LEA’ALAFA 22’, 30’)
New Caledonia: 2 ( Christ PEI 6’, Emmanuel HMAEN 16’)