U20 fight back to draw 2-2 with Tahiti
The national U-20side kicked of their OFC campaign yesterday to a 2-2 draw against Oceania powerhouse Tahiti, in Vanuatu.
They came from behind with two goals down to level the game in the second half.
Tahiti led 2-0 at half-time, scoring their first goal in the 13th minute, and their second in the 34th.
The half-time break gave national coach Pedro Mateo the chance to inspire his side as the boys came back for the second half with a renewed sense of verve causing immediate problems for their opponents.
The awarding of a penalty in the 48th minute gave them the chance to pull themselves into the match and Albert Witney made no mistake in slotting past Tetahio Teriinohopuaiterai.
Fifteen minutes later it was a beautiful strike from Richard Raramo that had the keeper beaten, with the ball just grazing the tips of Teriinohopuaiterai outstretched fingers.
Coach Mateo believes his side were justly rewarded for their second half performance.
“We had a long conversation at half-time although we had good vibes anyway because I think we had a good first half,” Mateo said.
“But we know against good teams like Tahiti, they know what to do and two mistakes – it’s two goals.
“We talked about this and we know our strength is how we treat the ball and how they came back into the game was a real positive for the side today.”
After taking the lead with a high pressing approach in the first half, Tahiti coach LudovicGraugnard was disappointed his side weren’t able to hold onto the advantage.
“We decided to press the Solomon team especially when out of possession to prevent them from controlling the ball in the way we know they do.
“The first half we won on the field and we were rewarded for the strategy we put in place. The second half however, we conceded two goals following errors from our side and they took advantage of that.
“We were under a lot of pressure on the pitch from Solomon Islands, and from around the stadium as the crowd got behind our opponents and eventually we cracked under that pressure.”
Group B action continues on Tuesday 6 September with the nation side taking on Cook Islands before Tahiti play New Zealand.
Meanwhile the other matches played yesterday saw Vanuatu beating Fiji 1-0, New Zealand defeating Cook Island 3-0 and New Caledonia crushing Papua New Guinea 4-1.
By CROFTON UTUKANA