By Denyse Ealedona and Natalie Cholohei, Games News Service
PORT MORESBY July 16 – Tahiti and New Caledonia are through to the Port Moresby 2015 Pacific Games men’s soccer gold medal game after winning their semifinal matches on Wednesday.
Tahiti beat Papua New Guinea 2-1 in a fiery encounter that saw both teams going hard for a berth in the gold medal playoff, but unfortunately for the boisterous PNG fans, Tahiti was able to find the net twice to advance.
Both teams were locked 0-0 at the end of the first and it was not until Fred Tissot (TAH) scored in the 54th minute that the Tahitians seemed to click into gear.
In what might have been the goal of the Games, Tauatua Lucas (TAH) controlled the ball with a touch and sent a rocket from 30 yards onto the underside of the bar and into the net, giving his team a 2-0 lead in the 78th minute.
There was a ray of light for PNG when in the 82nd minute they were awarded a indirect free kick after Papalau Awele (PNG) was felled by Ryan Petitgas (TAH) in the box.
It was unclear why referee Ravitesh Behari (FIJ) awarded an indirect free kick, rather than a straight penalty, but the result was effectively the same when Tommy Semmy (PNG) slammed the ball past a row of Tahitians protecting the goal line to pull PNG back within one goal.
Tahiti had a few very nervous moments as they protected their lead over the game’s last minutes, but ultimately they survived to progress to the final.
“We are very happy to be here, and we were very happy with the way our boys played today,” said Tahiti captain Rainui Aroita.
Tahiti coach Patrice Flaccadori (TAH) said his charges executed their game plan well.
“We are in the finals, we played a very good game today and I am very proud of my boys. We had a plan, we respected the game plan and we won, so [it was] perfect,” he said.
“We had an organised defence and made some counter attacks and it worked.”
In the second semifinal, reigning Pacific Games gold medallists New Caledonia were the better side, edging Oceania Olympic qualifiers Fiji 2-1.
New Caledonia wasted no time in taking the lead when Jim Ouka (NCL) put away a goal within the first five minutes of the first half.
But Fiji were back in the game on 34 minutes when New Caledonia goalkeeper Thomas Schmidt could not stop Napalioni Qasevakatini’s (FIJ) shot, and the scores were even.
However, New Caledonia were not to be denied the lead for long. Cédric Decoire (NCL) tucked away their second and ultimately winning goal on the 42 minute to give his team a 2-1 lead.
Fiji battled bravely under intense pressure in the second half and did well to not give up another goal, but they were never a threat to even the game as New Caledonia went on to win 2-1.
New Caledonia coach Thierry Sardo (NCL) said his team aimed to take advantage of their fresher legs, given Fiji had played an extra two matches in their successful Rio 2016 Olympic Games qualification campaign.
“Today my team is very good, the team has had plenty of time to rest,” he said. “We made the Fijians tired in the second half.”
New Caledonia will take on Tahiti for the gold medal while Fiji will be up against PNG in the bronze medal game, both to be played on Friday at Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.