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So close for gutsy Samoans, Otago downed again

OFC: Following a promising trend which has seen them improve with every match so far in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup, the Samoa national U15 team came within a whisker of a possible upset victory over Kilmarnock yesterday, going down eventually 1-0 courtesy of a questionable penalty decision.

The 0-1 loss was a morale boosting result for Samoa, albeit an indicator it had the potential to hold its own amongst more illustrious opposition. Having suffered three consecutive losses during the group rounds which effectively put them out of the contention for the Milk Cup, the performance against Kilmarnock is a positive step forward and confidence booster ahead of its consolation playoff match against County Fermanagh in the Dunluce Trophy junior round, later today.

Samoa coach David Brand was left to rue several missed chances, but was pleased overall with the players attitude in yesterday’s match. The Scots came out with every intention of racking up some quick goals, but led by impressive goalkeeper Romeo Sa, the Samoans shut them out with vigour and showed more urgency, particularly on defence.

Sticking to their opposition like glue, the Samoans made sure there would be no easy goals and with half-time in sight and no score, a new belief could be sensed in their play which may have worried the disbelieving Scots and the many Irish supporters who by now had warmed to the Samoans.

“Holding them out and even making our own attacks in their own half gave the boys a lot of confidence and had they played that way in the earlier games, I doubt whether they would have lost by so much,” Brand shared.

But as fate would deal its cruel hand, a soft challenge by a Samoan defender in the box led to the referee awarding a fortuitous penalty right before the stroke of half-time. Romeo Sa had no show in saving the shot and the Scots finally broke the deadlock. The second half saw the more determined Samoans gain the upper-hand but their inexperience caused them to rush shots on goal and bomb many other scoring opportunities. Content in defending their score, the Scots played out the clock and walked away relieved they hadn’t been on the end of the upset of the tournament.

“It was a collective good effort with nobody in particular standing out above the others, but what we need to do is learn to read the game which can’t be done when these boys do not watch the real thing on television – they have nothing to emulate except what they see in the local competitions which is not a proper educational tool at the stage of development they are currently in,” added Brand.

The Samoan team was invited last night with other teams to a Milk Cup function in Belfast hosted by the Mayoress of Belfast, Ann Brolly. There they entertained the visitors and hosts with renditions of their war dance and traditional songs. While they are yet to win a match, the Samoans have been winners off the pitch with their colourful personalities.

In other news, Oceania’s other team at the Milk, the Otago youth team, competing in the Premier (U-17) division, dropped their fourth straight match losing heavily to Dynamo Kiev 0-5. They are now in the Dunluce Trophy having dropped out of contention for the Milk Cup final rounds.

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