Png Almost Upsets Vanuatu In Stage 1 Preliminaries

OFC Release: Papua New Guinea was within a whisker of causing the first upset of the Oceania World Cup/Nations Cup Stage 1 preliminaries, while Samoa easily defeated American Samoa in the other match of Group 2.

OFC Release: Papua New Guinea almost created the first upset of the Oceania World Cup/Nations Cup Stage 1 preliminaries but was denied a deserved victory when Vanuatu defender Lexa Bule Bibi headed in the equaliser from a corner in the dying seconds of injury time which ended the game in a 1-1 draw. Earlier in the second half, PNG stunned Vanuatu, playing in their alternative green strip, when a long ball found Maurie Wasi who beat the Vanuatu defence and calmly slotted the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and captain, David Chilia.

PNG had dominated a lethargic looking Vanuatu side in the first half and created a number of shots on goal. PNG captain Richard Daniel ruled the midfield battle while Adrian Komu and striker Reginald Davani created havoc on the right side.   Vanuatu coach Juan Carlos Buzzetti injected his young maestro Jean Maleb in the second half replacing Richard Iwai up front. But the changes did not have the desired effect as the confident PNG coached by Ludwig Peka, looked set for a famous victory. But in injury time, Vanuatu showed good composure to earn themselves a last gasp corner that was to be their last chance to salvage a result. And the height of Bibi proved the difference as he rose above the packed penalty box to head in the goal, which was deflected in by the right post.

In the other opening round 1 match in Group 2 of the Stage 1 Preliminaries, Samoa scored two goals in each half to record a lacklustre 4-0 win over neighbours American Samoa. The match as a spectacle lacked the pace and drama of the first match as both sides struggled to retain possession resulting in constant turnovers.

Samoa striker Tama Fasavalu scored a double before being taken off by coach, David Brand while debutant Dennis Bryce scored the first goal from a corner heading in past goalkeeper Nicky Salapu. Veteran Junior Michael finished off the scoring converting a penalty in the second half after being brought down by Salapu in the penalty area.

The OFC Nations Cup/World Cup Stage 1 preliminaries continue tomorrow, Wednesday 12 May (local time in Honiara) with the focus returning to Group 1 over in the Solomon Islands. The hosts play Cook Islands in the first match with Tahiti playing New Caledonia in a crunch match, which many predict will decide Group 1 final position.

The next matches for Group 2 are on Wednesday, 12 May (local time in Apia) following the official opening ceremony for Group 2 and FIFA Centennial Celebrations in Apia on tomorrow. Fiji will play their first match of the tournament when they take on PNG while American Samoa plays Vanuatu in the other round 2 match for Group 2.

Both stage 1 group tournaments will be completed on 19 May with the winners and runner ups from both groups advancing to Adelaide, Australia for Stage 1 of the preliminary competition.