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Solomons edge closer to Tahiti

While the Solomon Islands Bilikiki have reigned over Vanuatu at a regional level for some time, after losing to them in the final of the Asia Pacific Gold Cup earlier this year confidence in the Vanuatu camp was high coming into this match-up.
For Vanuatu that self-assured approach seemed to pay off when they took an early lead when captain Antonio Malapa found the back of the net less than five minutes into the first period. However it was a short lived advantage as the Solomon Islands struck back seconds later through Joe Luwi. Strong defending from both teams saw them round out the first period locked at a goal-a-piece.
The second period however, was a chance for the Bilikiki to utilise some of the experience that comes with four consecutive regional titles and appearances at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Solomon Islands’ beach soccer veterans Robert Laua and James Naka both got on the scoreboard, with the latter earning a brace in this period.
Newcomers McPhilip Aisa and national futsal goalkeeper Anthony Talo also found the back of the net to take their side to 6-1 going into the final third.
Naka was the first to come out firing after the break to earn his hat-trick and earn an early lead in the race for tournament top scorer. Luwi fired home a second to take the Bilikiki to an 8-1 advantage over their opponents. A surge from Vanuatu late in the third saw Ivong Wilson find the back of the net before Daniel Natou put one away in the dying seconds to take the game to 8-3 at the final whistle.
Solomon Islands coach Gideon Omokirio says he took a safe approach to the match early on given his side’s limited build-up to the competition.
“We managed to get our confidence and momentum back for the second third,” Omokirio says. “Some of our experienced players are too comfortable, they have been in the team for a long time and are starting to relax so that’s why I’ve made some changes and brought some new blood into the team so they can bring some more energy.”
For his first foray as a coach on the international scene, Omokirio is happy but believes he can do better and his charges too.
“I want to achieve more as a coach, during my time as a player I achieved a lot and now I want to do the same as a coach, and do better.”
For his counterpart Wilson August the result wasn’t quite so pleasing but he hope to see his charges bounce back against New Caledonia in their final match of the tournament tomorrow.
“I’m happy with the performance but arriving late, just yesterday, then having to play today really affected us,” Wilson says. “But I liked the way the boys played, we respect Solomon Islands but it’s like that, we now have to win tomorrow.”
Vanuatu will take on the so far untested New Caledonia side tomorrow afternoon and Wilson is confident the game plan he has in place will help his side secure victory.
“We expect to win and we’ll try our best to do that,” he says.
The OFC Beach Soccer Championship 2013 continues tomorrow, Sunday 1 September, with hosts New Caledonia taking on Vanuatu at 2pm at the University of New Caledonia in Noumea, New Caledonia.

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