HONIARA: Honiara has won the National Under 20 tournament after defeating former champions Makira 2-0 in the grand final witnessed by about 5,000 spectators at Lawson Tama Stadium last weekend. The win ended the capital city’s long losing streak at youth level.
Team coach and former national soccer player, Timothy Inifiri was the happiest man following their success. He says that for a long time youth teams representing Honiara city always fell short of achieving their goal.
It was an upset win for Honiara faced against the heavy favourites and defending champion Makira who many predicated would take out the silverware. Makira’s form during the pool games suggested they would be too powerful for the capital lads, but the underdogs rose to the occasion.
Makira started the stronger team forcing Honiara custodian John Morgan to pull off some stunning saves early on. Morgan’s heroics inspired his team to hold on and weather the early onslaught. Having settled into the game, Honiara began to penetrate Makira’s defence against the run of play scoring the game’s first goal through student Godwin Bebeu.
Makira, stung into action, mounted wave after wave of attack but Honiara were able to hold on till the half-time break. In the second stanza, Makira continued to make most of the play camping in Honiara’s half for long periods but were unable to find the back of the net from numerous shots on goal. Again Morgan was to the fore thwarting many golden chances presented to the Makira forwards.
Honiara Coach Inifiri then made an intelligent substitution bringing in Benjamin Totori and his energy and attacking zeal proved a masterstroke as he finished off a brilliant Honiara counter-attack with clinical precision to extend his side’s lead to 2-0.
Inifiri admitted after the match that his tactical substitution had paid off. He and another former national player turned coach – Jacob Moli spent three weeks with the players shaping them up for this competition and the win meant a lot to them.
“Our victory came about because of the boys’ good discipline and the hard work of my assistant Moli,” he added.
Meanwhile, Temotu came third in the competition after Western Province withdrawal.
Malaita won the Fair play trophy while Totori bagged the golden boot award as top goal scorer for the tournament with eight to his name.
Visit the Solomon Islands Football Federation website linked to the homepage for extensive coverage of the Solomon Islands national Under 20 champs