New Caledonia off the mark at the OFC U-19 Men's Championship

July 9, 2024 12:10 pm

[Source: OFC Media via Phototek]

New Caledonia have bounced back with a victory at the OFC U-19 Men’s Championship after tight tussle against Papua New Guinea in Samoa.

Both teams entered the match winless after suffering defeats to New Zealand and Samoa on match day 2 of the competition respectively. That put extra pressure on Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia to get a result.

New Caledonia started the brighter of the two, first speedster Paul Qaeze got into open field before charging at Daniel Sakora, who made a comfortable save at the near post. The proceeding corner saw Yann Wahaga go within a whisker of scoring, his powerful header hitting the post.

Article continues after advertisement

Under siege from Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia turned defence into attack. A clearance turned long ball put Qaeze into open space – beating the goalkeeper with a tricky turn, he fired a shot just wide of the empty goal.

A sloppy tackle from Nelson Karaun on Jythrim Upa gifted New Caledonia a penalty. Wahaga stepped up to take it, however Sakora made a fantastic save to deny him. We have yet to see a penalty converted at the OFC U-19 Men’s Championship in Apia.

Papua New Guinea’s best chance came minutes out from half-time, Solomon Kamake made a great run driving into the box, all he needed to do was link up with one of two players in the box for an easy tap in, but under hit his pass that was intercepted.

Into added on time, New Caledonia finally got the goal they had been searching for, with Quaze scoring with a terrific strike. The ball fell fortunately for the attacker after taking a lucky bounce off his teammate, before the New Caledonian curled it into the top corner.

New Caledonia went right on the attack in the second period, Upa latched on to a great through ball but couldn’t beat Sakora, the Papua New Guinea goalkeeper putting his body on the line to make the save.

As the rain started to come down heavier, the over-the-top long ball started coming into immediate effect from both teams. Goalkeeper Gabin Rachel put Qaeze in on goal, but Papua New Guinea substitute keeper Lomani Nahiet was then up to the task.

Rachel got lucky at the other end, a cross like shot from Papua New Guinea’s David Tita deceived the New Caledonia goalkeeper who though the ball as heading over the crossbar. Instead, the ball curled back in and hit the post, very nearly leading to an equaliser.

For all their dominance in the second-half, Papua New Guinea deservedly got an equaliser. A under hit pass from captain Kandjo Teanyouen saw Tonny Sagana pounce on it, he collided with Rachel before getting back up to score into an empty net.

But it was New Caledonian that had the final say. Antonie Simane went unmarked at a free kick, bringing the ball down, before dribbling past multiple Papua New Guinea defenders, then perfectly placing the ball into the back of the net.

New Caledonia will now look to finish off their group stage on a positive note when they face Samoa later this week, whilst Papua New Guinea will need to beat New Zealand to have any chance of advancing to the semi-finals.