BY ROMULUS HUTA
THREE red cards were flashed as Tahiti held on to win 2-1 against archrival New Caledonia in the second Group B match of the OFC Under-16 Championship yesterday at Lawson Tama Stadium.
In a tough encounter played over a total of 98 minutes with the added injury time, two players from New Caledonia were sent off along with one player from Tahiti, leaving only 19 men on the pitch for both sides.
Tahiti took up earlier lead in the first half through a goal from left winger Tekaki Sangue, who rose from a hero to a villain following his dismissal by New Zealand referee Cory Mills in the 58th minute.
Denji Kaiha added the second for Tahiti in the second half to make it 2-0 before New Caledonian substitute Andre Matha pulled one back for his side toward the finish.
Tahitian captain Tehauarii Holozet is pleased with the win and admitted that they have overcame all challenges to win the match.
“It was a first for us, it was hard but we were right there in the match and we knew how to have confidence in what we were doing, how we were playing and what the coach told us.
“The Cagous were very physical, but we were there in the match too,” he added.
The captain of the New Caledonian side Paul Xalite said they performed well but the result did not favour them.
“We performed well with a debut that was a bit ‘bof’, but we knew we had to keep playing, keep progressing.
“We tried to keep the score at 1-0 and put a goal in during the second half, to at least help build up the morale of the players.
“Even if we lost two players, we played a good match,” Xalite expressed.
The win puts Tahiti on three points on the table equal with Fiji, who defeated Samoa 3-2 in the earlier encounter of the day.
Tahiti will play Fiji in their second match on Thursday while New Caledonia takes on Samoa.
Looking ahead to the contest against the Fijians, Tahiti coach Hermann Aurentz said Fiji is a good side and he is expecting nothing less than another strong challenge.
“Fiji is always very physical, very direct but we saw that they came back from two goals down to score three goals.
“We’re expecting a very difficult match but we’ll try and do our best just like we did against New Caledonia.
“The Melanesians, in comparison to Tahitians are quicker and stronger but we’ll be out to get a second win to help us continue in this U-16 Championship.”