Samoa have bounced back into contention at the OFC U17 Championship 2023, beating Tonga 6-0 in their Group A match.
Samoan coach Desmond Edward made two changes to his starting side that lost 3-0 to Fiji in their opening game of the tournament. Jason Goble-Lote lined up in the midfield and Cayden Steffener moved up front to partner his captain Pharrell Trainor. Meanwhile, for the Tongans it was their first outing of the OFC U17 Championship 2023.
Both teams were cagey early on in a fine day in Suva, as a win for either would go a long way to ensuring their stay in the tournament. The first chance came after 15 minutes, with a lovely curling shot by Samoan defender Aukoso Ah Far just grazing the Tongan goal post as it went wide.
After that, Samoa started a good period of domination. There was almost an own goal by Nikolasi Vakatapu, who almost deflected a low cross by Ethelbert Edward past his goal keeper, but luckily it went wide.
However, the Tongan’s luck ran out not long after a powerful shot by Alex Malauulu went just over the bar. Trainor made a big run off a defensive miscue, getting into the box and getting a shot off and Edward was on hand to knock in the deflection to give Samoa the lead after 20 minutes.
Trainor didn’t have to wait long to get his name on the scoresheet, though. The big striker showed a cool head to finish a well-poached chance as the Tongan defence gave the ball up only three minutes later.
If that was crisp, Trainor’s second only two minutes later was even better, playing a lovely one-two ball with Malauulu then stepping his way past two defenders to slot home and make it 3-0. It then became deficit of four for the Tongans when Edward finished off a well-placed long ball that found him all alone in the area.
Coach Edward started to roll his bench, bringing on Talaleilei Taituuga in goal to give his back up keeper some minutes. Taituuga was almost in the action early as Tonga enjoyed their best period of possession in the game, but despite some good space created by the midfield, the forwards couldn’t cash in due to some committed Samoan defence.
However, Tonga kept pressing and almost pegged a goal back thanks to substitute Puluno Kafoa. His shot drew a fine save by Taituuga, meaning the Tongan scoreline still stayed at nil.
Samoa gradually absorbed the pressure and extended their lead as Tongan legs tired. Trainor positioned himself well to take a cross near the penalty spot before knocking home a hot with his right foot to complete his hat trick. But the Newcastle Jets U21 squad member wasn’t done, slotting home his fourth to complete an emphatic with for the Samoans.
The win gives them a much-needed three points as they go into a rest period before the quarter finals. They’ll watch on as Tonga face Fiji next week, with a win for the home side putting the Samoans into the knockout stages.
SAMOA 6 (Ethelbert EDWARD 20′, 40′, Pharrell TRAINOR 23′, 25′, ’70, 85’)
Here are your lineups for today's Group A #O172023 match between Tonga and Samoa. 🇹🇴🇼🇸
— OFC Oceania Football (@OFCfootball) January 15, 2023