PNG raise their game to earn a point against Tahiti

June 19, 2024 4:28 pm

Papua New Guinea and Tahiti played out a breathless 1-all draw on match day two in Group B at the OFC Men’s Nations Cup 2024 in Suva.

The result leaves both sides with a chance of advancing to the semi-finals next week in Vanuatu, with the result a welcome rebound for Warren Moon’s side following their defeat to co-hosts Fiji on Sunday.

Papua New Guinea had the better of the opening 45 minutes but it was Tahiti that took the lead inside a quarter of an hour.

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A wonderful counter-attack from Samuel Garcia’s men saw Matéo Degrumelle running free of the defence before drawing in goalkeeper Ronald Warisan and delicately dinking the ball into the far corner.

To their credit, Papua New Guinea responded well, with powerful forward Tommy Semmy to the fore.

The equaliser took only nine minutes to arrive and it was Hekari United midfielder Ati Kepo at the heart of the attack – beating his man in the box before selflessly squaring a pass to the supporting Pala Paul to roll the ball into the unguarded net.

They continued to press in search of the go-ahead goal, with first Semmy and then Yagi Yasasa going close as Tahiti doggedly held on.

Whatever Warren Moon said to his charges at half-time made a positive impact, as Papua New Guinea hit the ground running after the break. Emmanuel Simon flashing a shot inches wide of the far post when given time and space on the edge of the area.

Just past the hour mark, Tahiti squandered an excellent opportunity to take a crucial lead. Captain Teaonui Tehau was played through on goal but, under pressure, fired his shot straight at Warisan.

A break at the other end saw Tommy Semmy curl a low cross to Ati Kepo coming in late, but the midfielder’s stretch wasn’t enough to meet the ball and Tahiti survived.

Delays meant a lengthy stoppage time, with both sides seeking what would be a crucial winning goal. Papua New Guinea enjoyed the majority of possession in the closing stages but were unable to create enough to trouble Teave Teamotuaitau in the Tahiti goal.

With little left on the clock Tahiti lost Matatia Paama to a red card, after the defender appeared to lash out at Ati Kepo following a clash in the air.

Both teams now look to Saturday and the final match day of the group stage, when Papua New Guinea face Samoa and Tahiti take on co-hosts Fiji.