[Source: OFC Media via Phototek]
Tahiti has come within a whisker of qualifying for the semi-finals of the OFC Futsal Nations Cup in Auckland only to be denied by a late Solomon Islands equalisier to draw 5-5 at the Bruce Pulman Arena.
It was the most stupendous encounter and one where the side which has represented Oceania in the past four editions of the FIFA Futsal World Cup, had to dig deep just to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
As it stands Tahiti is on four points alongside New Caledonia with the Solomon Islands on two points. Destiny is still in their own hands but Damon Shaw’s side will need a big win over Samoa to make the semi-finals with New Caledonia and Tahiti to effectively play for top spot in the Group on Wednesday.
It was a terrific contest from the outset.
Tahiti had a brilliant chance to open the scoring but Tetuanui Tinomoe’s effort after a sweeping move was blocked by Clif Sasau in the Solomon Islands goal in the 3rd minute.
A minute later the Solomon Islands were in front with Calvin Do’oro squaring a pass across the goal and Olivier Hirihiri put the ball into his own net.
Do’oro came close to doubling the Solomon Islands lead in the 12th minute but his rasping shot went just wide and two minutes later Owen Bunabo’s thunderbolt just about skimmed the post.
The Tahitians looked threatening on the counter but were unable to seriously test Sasau in the remainder of the first half.
The Solomon Islands doubled their lead three minutes before the break when the brilliant Micah Lea’alafa fired home from an acute angle.
Tahiti came close to cutting the gap deficit early in the second half but Vincent Tinomoe’s shot went just wide. Two minutes later they did close the gap when Michel Maihuri fired home and when The Solomon Islands side were rattled and Tahiti came close to taking the lead in the 27th minute when Vincent Tinomoe got through on goal only to be blocked by Sasau. Moments later Tetuanui Tinomoe had a curling effort just go just wide of the far post.
But the Solomon Islands side have not won the last four OFC World Cup qualifying tournaments for nothing and they regained the lead in spectacular fashion with a cracking strike from Calvin Do’oro in the 29th minute. They then doubled their advance through Do’oro again three minutes later and looked to be on course for a hard fought win.
But Tahiti had other ideas and continued to attack. They were rewarded when Vincent Tinomoe scored his second seven minutes from time and two minutes later after his penalty attempt was blocked by Sasau, Tetuanui Tinomoe scored off the rebound to tie things up again. He scored again two minutes later to put Tahiti on the brink of a monumental upset. Somehow the Solomon Islands conjured up one more chance and with a minute 10 remaining Elis Mana found the back of the net to complete the most extraordinary encounter.