Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2016 OFC U-20 Championship Preliminary > Dramatic day sets up thrilling conclusion

Dramatic day sets up thrilling conclusion

American Samoa put the disappointment of their opening 5-0 defeat behind them to hold hosts Tonga to a 1-1 draw, while Cook Islands grabbed a late winner against Samoa.
Based on the results from the opening day, Tonga’s clash against American Samoa at the Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa looked like a formality.
However anyone who thought that the hosts will crusie to an easy win had to reconsider after just six minutes, when Steven Fiso took advantage of a goalkeeping mistake to give the unfancied American Samoans the lead.
Tonga responded four minutes later courtesy of Anthony Likiliki’s brilliant long range equaliser.
With the scores level both sides pressed high in search of the lead, only to leave some gaps at the back.
Following his goal Fiso looked increasingly confident while at the other end Talatala Po’oi seemed to be the most likely to prosper.
Despite their best efforts the two sides couldn’t be separated before the break.
The contest became even tighter after the restart with neither side able to stamp their authority on the proceedings.
With both defences well organized and the two goalkeepers in commanding form it was hard to see where the goals will come from.
But with just ten minutes to go Tonga had a golden chance to grab all three points following a foul on Fisi’ihoi Palualele by Willie Malele inside American Samoa’s penalty area.
Soakai Vea stepped up to the spot but he couldn’t beat Kinilau Pouli, whose save secured American Samoa only their second ever draw at U-20 level.
Coach Sione Mau was delighted with the way his side responded after their opening defeat.
“First match was tough but I knew we are going to get better and better,’ Mau said.
“I believe we were unlucky not to win it.
“I’m also confident that there is more to come from this side,” he added.
Meanwhile, his Tongan counterpart Tevita Moala couldn’t hide his frustration.
“I’m very disappointed both with the result and also with the way we played.
My players simply didn’t stick to the game plan,” Moala said.
“I knew American Samoa will be a tough challenge and I’m not surprised with the way they performed, but we played well below our capabilities”
In today’s second encounter the equation was simple for Samao who knew that a win over Cook Islands would secure their spot at September’s OFC U-20 Championship in Vanuatu.
On the back of their 5-0 win over American Samoa, Paul Ualesi’s men started confidently with Samuel Malo looking particularly threatening.
Cook Islands have settled into their task midway through the first half as a physical contest developed in the midfield area.
Both goalkeepers were tested with Keegan Inia producing a brilliant diving save to deny Vaatausili Vaa from close range in the 37th minute, before Faalavelave Matagi showed of his skills to keep out a powerful long range free kick from Sunai Joseph three minutes later.
Samoa’s best chance of the game came two minutes after the break when Christopher Gale found himself one-one-one with Inia inside the penalty box but he couldn’t pass the inform keeper.
Samoa pressed high searching for a winner but Cook Islands looked just as likely to score on the counter.
As the second half progressed the two sides seemed less willing to take risks, but there was a late twist in the 86th minute when Dwayne Tiputoa pounced on a rare mistake by Matagi to give Cook Islands a 1-0 win.
Samoa coach Paul Ualesi was philosophical in defeat.
“It’s a very s disappointing result but I don’t want to take anything away from Cook Islands, I want to congratulate them on the win,” he said.
“It was an even match and a draw would have been a fair result but that’s how football goes sometimes.
“I also feel for Matagi, he had a very good game and a very good tournament so far, it’s tough to be punished like that for one mistake.”
Cook Islands coach Tuka Tisam believes his side deserves every credit for their win over a very good Samoan side.
“We wanted a win and we needed win and my boys worked very hard for it against a tough team,” Tisam said.
“It was a very physical match and Samoa have a lot of skilful and strong players so my boys did really well to win.”
On the final Match Day Cook Islands will meet American Samoa at 12 pm Monday 27 June, before Samoa face hosts Tonga from 3pm at the Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa.

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