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OFC’s inaugural Futsal Champions League kicked off in style following three keenly contested and entertaining encounters on the opening match day at Auckland’s Barfoot and Thompson Stadium.
Solomon Islands’ Kooline FC overcame a strong challenge from Tahitian champions AS Pirae to kick off proceedings before D’York Street from Vanuatu edged past Fiji’s Suva Futsal.
In Thursday’s final match hosts AFF Futsal and New Caledonia’s AS TPP were forced to settle for the share of the points following a six goal thriller.
A cagey opening saw opportunities at both ends as both teams tried to stamp their mark in the historical opening match in the inaugural OFC Futsal Champions League.
Despite some threatening counterattacks from AS Pirae, Kooline’s attacking verve created pressure for the Tahitian champions, resulting in a mounting foul mark in the first half.
The pressure soon took its toll, and goalkeeper Anthony Talo opened the scoring from the 10 metre penalty mark just before half time.
A long range strike from Talo’s Kurukuru team mate Coleman Makau followed soon after, to put some daylight between the teams at the break.
Makau’s playmaking qualities came to the fore in the second half, setting up No8 to make it three early in the second stanza, but Pirae struck back on the counter to reduce the deficit.
Tahiti employed the flying goalkeeper to try to get back in the match, but a late goal from the excellent Makau secured three points to put the impressive Solomon Island champions on top of the table.
Suva started brightly in the second match of the day, dominating possession and creating scoring opportunities.
D’York however, grew into the game and they were rewarded for their endeavours with a late first half strike courtesy of Aubert Tales.
The Fijians replied quickly in the second period through a great team goal finished by Deepal Singh.
But as Suva started to tire, D’York reasserted their dominance.
In the final minutes an own goal by Akitesh Kumar restored D’York’s lead and Port Vila based team put the match beyond the reach of the Fijian champions thanks to Jesse Takaro’s late finish.
In the final match of an entertaining first day, Auckland enjoyed the best of the opening exchanges and took the lead following an angled shot on the turn from pivot Sean McIntee.
The hosts dominance continued until a defensive lapse from Futsal White Dylan Manickum under the high pressing of the AS PTT defense provided an easy finish for Christophe Kausuo.
McIntee struck again shortly before halftime after turning his marker with some trademark pivot work to give the home side a 2-1 edge at the break.
AS PTT continued with their high press defence and disrupted the New Zealanders’ rhythm.
A back post finish from a set play courtesy of Cedrick Humuni restored parity for the New Caledonians before Kausuo netted again at the end of a beautifully worked move to give AS PTT the lead, setting up a dramatic finale.
Auckland flew their goalkeeper and finally found the breakthrough when Adam Paulsen squared for Stephen Ashby to finish at the back post.
Opportunities were squandered at both ends and a thrilling match ended all square at 3-3.
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