New Caledonia seal third straight soccer title

PORT MORESBY, July 17 – New Caledonia retained its Pacific Games title with a stylish 2-0 win against Tahiti in the men’s soccer final at the Sir Hubert Murray stadium on Friday.

Jim Ouka’s (NCL) lethal finish and Raphael Oiremoin’s (NCL) penalty capped a dominant display that secured New Caledonia’s third successive gold medal.

The only blemish was a red card late in the game for Ouka, who was sent off along with Tevaimoana Meslien after the two scuffled, while Tamatoa Tetauira (TAH) also missed a late penalty.

New Caledonia coach Thierry Sardo (NCL) said the key to his side’s success was playing with uninhibited freedom.

“We always play the same way, it doesn’t matter if it’s the final. I told the boys to go out and express themselves and enjoy themselves on the field – to show off. And that’s what we did,” he said.

“They have accomplished my dream and I am proud of them. I was already proud of them.”

Tahiti’s coach Patrice Flaccadori (TAH) admitted that New Caledonia deserved the victory.

“It was very hard for us and I’m not surprised. New Caledonia are technically very strong. They are fast, well-organised and they move the ball forward very quickly. The best team won. I told my boys it would be very difficult and it was. No regrets,” said the coach.

“We decided to play a defensive 4-1-4-1 and wait for them and counter-attack, but we didn’t do it very well. We had one very good chance early on, but in football you have to score.”

That chance came at 0-0, when Heremoana Hoata made a superb goalline clearance after Fred Tissot’s lob beat goalkeeper Thomas Schmidt (NCL).

Minutes later, New Caledonia took the lead when Ouka turned and slammed home from 15 yards.

Tahiti goalkeeper Tom Teriinohopuaiterai then saved shots from Oiremoin (NCL), Joseph Athale and Ouka as New Caledonia took control.

Midway through the second half, Meslien conceded a penalty when he made a challenge in the box on Oiremoin, who lashed home the spot-kick that secured gold for New Caledonia.

Tetauira’s (TAH) late spot-kick, which was brilliantly saved by Schmidt, and Leon Wahnawe’s (TAH) miss on the rebound summed up Tahiti’s night.

As New Caledonia celebrated, their defender Mickael Partodikromo revealed the victory was especially poignant for him.

“It’s a very big thing for me. At the last Pacific Games I was watching it in the stadium with my dad and my granddad. My granddad passed away just last year and I told him before, ‘I’ll be there, and I’ll win the gold medal for you’. And now I have,” Partodikromo said.

“My dad will be at home watching this on TV, and I think he will be proud of me.”

By Willie Lovai, Games News Service

GNS wl/kd

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