Hosts Vanuatu booked a place in the 2016 OFC U-20 Championship semi-finals with a game to spare thanks to a 3-1 win over Papua New Guinea on match day two in Group A in Port Vila on Tuesday.
The remaining spot on offer to Group A will go down to wire the after a 1-1 draw between New Caledonia and Fiji kept the latter’s hopes alive and delayed New Caledonia’s progression to the playoffs until at least the final group games on Saturday.
Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, who needed at least a point to keep their dream of qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea intact, were goalless at the break but a red card to Papua New Guinea’s Kenneth Pilailo four minutes after the restart changed the complexion of the match.
Ten-man Papua New Guinea refused to lay down and when Gabby Yanum bundled the ball over the line from a 77th minute corner, they found reward for their persistence and hope they could get the point they desperately needed.
However Jayson Thomas extinguished those hopes with Vanuatu’s third in the 81st minute, restoring the two-goal buffer and ultimately confirm a victory that sends them into the semi-finals.
Vanuatu’s technical advisor for the campaign and head coach for this match, Declan Edge expressed the joy emanating from a proud home team.
“I’m very happy for the players, the supporters here today and everyone involved in Vanuatu at the moment. It’s great,” Edge.
It could have gone either way to be fair. We took some good chances and Bong scored a terrific goal for the second. It’s football and sometimes it can go either way. We’re just happy to get a good result.”
For Papua New Guinea coach Peter Dabinyaba there were mixed emotions after another close game that got away.
“We go out happy,” said Dabinyaba with qualification for a World Cup now off the table.
“We were determined to win this game but we knew it would only be by one goal or something. We knew Vanuatu would write us off after the performance against New Caledonia game. We came with a lot of confidence to win this game but unlucky for us we cost the game ourselves.”
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Full match highlights below;