Lupe Ole Soaga are Fiji-bound

To progress to the next stage of this competition on their tournament debut is an unforgettable achievement for Lupe coach Paul Ualesi.
“I’m really excited about that next stage right now. It’s our first time here at tier two and now we are going on to the next tier which won’t be easy,” he says.
“We’ll have to really prepare if we want to do well. We will do our best to better the performance of Kiwi FC this year when we make our debut in 2015.”
The hosts were given a fright early on in the match as FC SKBC kept them relegated to their own half for the opening five minutes. The pressure remained as the two sides rallied but when Silao Malo smashed in a free kick in the 21st minute to open the scoring for Lupe Ole Soaga, the pressure eased.
Several decent efforts were thwarted at either end with Sinisia Tua unable to convert FC SKBC’s best chance to equalise leaving his side a goal behind at the break.
Just three minutes after the restart Silao Malo had his second of the afternoon with another long range effort beating goalkeeper Richard Donovan. In the 53rd minute he had his hat trick when Donovan’s clearance fell neatly for the striker to blast into an empty net.
The frantic attacking continued from Lupe Ole Soaga as they looked to bury the match by the biggest possible margin. Next on the score sheet was Lapalapa Toni who, from the tightest of angles, slipped the ball between Donovan and his near post for Lupe’s fourth.
Luki Gosche had a number of close calls but took a little too long on the ball, missing his opportunities. However in the 81st minute he didn’t waste a second when he found himself with just Donovan to beat, lifting the ball over the keeper and into the back of the net.
It didn’t get any easier for the hard working FC SKBC backline as the clock ticked down and their opponents refused to tire. Buoyed by the home crowd they continued to push forward and win through to the next stage in the best way possible.
With just seconds remaining in additional time Lionel Taylor delivered a cross for defender Andrew Setefano to head down for his side’s sixth goal of the match.
While his charges appear to have won with relative ease, Ualesi credited the spirited performance from the American Samoa club champions.
“I think it was a good match against our cousins from American Samoa. I think their game lifted in their first two matches and we expected that. We stuck with our game plan.
“Thank you to the American Samoa team for the good game, it was a tough game.”
FC SKBC coach Rishi Prakesh was ultimately disappointed his side didn’t have the stamina to contain their Samoan neighbours over 90 minutes.
“I thank the Lupe Ole Soaga team, they just played the game. We had some problems, mostly fitness, and it worked out that the Apia team was really good.
“This is our first time in this Oceania tournament and we’ll go back and improve from there and we will come back stronger if we appear next year.”
In the earlier match Lotoha’apai United of Tonga needed a victory if they were to have any chance of challenging Lupe Ole Soaga for the title.
With Puaikura whittled down to only a starting 11, including player-coach Tuka Tisam, it would have come as little surprise if the Tongan side dominated the Cook Islanders in the same manner as their 4-1 win over FC SKBC two days earlier.
But it was Puaikura applying the majority of pressure from the offset with Stu Kelly floating in a corner in the first minute that challenged keeper Sione Faupula’s reflexes.
Lotoha’apai captain Mark Uhatahi and Puaikura defender Claes Ljungberg became bitter on field rivals as the striker tried to muscle his way towards the goal only to be thwarted on almost every occasion by the Swede.
Both teams failed to convert their chances as the game ping-ponged from one end to the other. Still locked at 0-0 at the restart Puaikura forced their opponent right back to the keeper from the kick-off and came close to forcing an error.
Stuart Kelly had a couple of one-on-one chances with Faupula between the sticks but on both occasions was unable to get his effort across the line. He finally got his chance to get on the board in the 83rd minute lobbed over a fully stretched Faupaula.
Lotoha’apai, to their credit, kept the intensity high right up until the final whistle but proved that you have to convert your chances as they went down by just one goal.
“It was not a good performance, it was the worst performance I have ever come across with this team,” Lotoha’apai United coach Fetu’u Vea lamented.
“We created a lot of chances, maybe ten, and we missed all those chances so it was a nightmare. I just don’t know what the difference was today, maybe I have to go and ask them why?”
With a heavily depleted squad Tuka Tisam was forced to play himself up front for the full 90 minutes, with no substitutes available at all.
“I thought the boys played their hearts out without subs so I thought they deserved the win today.
“It was a great performance by Tonga, they’ve got a great squad, but we got the goal which we needed to win and take it home.
“I can’t tell if I made a difference, I think I played well, I don’t know, but I pulled a hamstring. We got a goal, we take the win and we’re going to celebrate pretty hard tonight.”
Puaikura’s victory sees them slot into second place in the rankings with four points, slotting in ahead of Lotoha’apai on three. Rounding out the table with one point is FC SKBC.
In the individual awards Lupe Ole Soaga striker Silao Malo was the clear winner of the Golden Boot with his five goals taking him ahead of the five players sitting on two each. Malo’s performance over the three match days also earned him the Golden Ball for most outstanding player of the tournament.
Lotoha’apai United goalkeeper Sione Faulupa takes home the Golden Gloves while Puiakura FC were given the Fairplay award.

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