The first meeting between the Melanesian beach soccer rivals since 2013 was always going to be an open and high scoring affair, but yesterday’s 21 goal extravaganza defied all expectations.
The lively Joseph Athala opened the scoring for New Caledonia in the third minute, but Vanuatu replied with three of their own in the next three minutes – courtesy of Don Masale, Loic Boulet and Evaristo Kapalu.
Les Cagous closed the gap when Athale grabbed his second, but Vanuatu went to the break with a three goal advantage thanks to assured finishes from Antonio Malapa and Octav Meltecoin.
Wilson Marango’s men took total control in the second period with five unanswered goals from Reece Tasip, Harrison Massing, a second from Kapul and two further strikes from the impressive Boulet.
New Caledonia skipper Patrick Diake attempted to haul his side back into the game with two goals to end a thrilling second stanza.
Amy Antoine Roine’s header gave Les Cagous a flicker of hope at the start of the third period before Vanuatu extinguished any chance of a comeback with goals from Johndas Thomas, Mansale and Meltecoin.
To their credit, Felix Tagawa’s side fought until the end, finding the net on two further occasions. Athale completed his hat-trick with a supeb volley straight from a kick off, and Georges Wakanamune slid the ball home at the back post to bring some respectability to the scoreline.
Vanuatu had the last say however, when Boulet nabbed his fourth and Vanuatu’s fourteenth to conclude an unforgettable encounter.
New Caledonia will be looking to pick up their first points of the week when they face an improving Tonga in Thursday’s aperitif, before the blockbuster clash between top of the table Solomon Islands and regional beach soccer giants Tahiti.