The stakes will be high in the opening encounter of Match Day 2 of the OFC Champions League Qualifier as Puaikura take on Lupe Ole Soaga in a top of the table clash before Veitongo FC and Utulei Youth battle for their first points at Loto-Tonga Soka Centre, Nuku’alofa Tonga tomorrow.
Puaikura FC dominated hosts Veitongo FC 4-0 in the first day of action on 28 January and coach Matthew Calcott is confident they will continue that momentum in their match against Lupe Ole Soaga.
“A win always gives you a little bit of confidence and it’s been good to have these extra days to knit everything together. We just had a good session and I’m looking forward to tomorrow,” he said.
Calcott hopes two days of recovery and a morning spent tweaking some of the errors from their opener will lead to an improved performance from his side tomorrow.
“We’re hoping to see an improvement in combinations, possession and probably a little bit more pressure. Our pressure lines need to be improved and we’ll make sure they are given the work we’ve done in training this morning,” he said.
After a neck-and-neck battle against American Samoa’s Utulei Youth FC, Lupe Ole Soaga coach Paul Ualesi believes better discipline from his side will be the difference in what he foresees as their most challenging match.
“I know Puaikura FC have a lot of experienced players but we’re going to keep our heads up and step up, focus on our game plan and work on our discipline,” he said.
“It will be hard with one of our good defenders Vito Laloata stood down for his red card but we’re not going to get our heads down, we’re going to move forward and get the other boys to step up for his position,” he added.
Veitongo will need to rethink their starting line-up before their second match at 3pm (local time) against Utulei Youth, with both Mark Uhatahi and Hemaloto Polovili stood down after receiving red cards in their first match against Puaikura FC.
“I know the boys are very disappointed after their loss on Saturday, especially Mark and Hemaloto who received red cards, they’re really disappointed about what happened in the last game,” coach Timote Moleni said.
Despite the suspensions, coach Timote Moleni believes his side still has the ability to win if they play a more disciplined and strategic game against their American Samoa opponents.
“I feel confident because we’ve always had a plan B for if we lost someone like in the last game and I know the boys will do their best tomorrow to win against Utulei Youth,” he added.
Utulei Youth coach Pita Sinapati is feeling confident heading into their clash with Veitongo FC after their very close loss to Lupe Ole Soaga, and is looking forward to a physical but professional game.
“We know Veitongo are very physical so we need to hold our ground and do as we have practiced. Keep the ball, look for our players and finish our attempts,” he said.
“In the first 10 minutes we need to speed up the game, we need to make sure we don’t fall back early and have to come back like in the second half of our first match.
“We need to play to win.”
Puaikura FC [COK] vs. Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM]
Loto-Tonga Soka Centre
Tuesday 31 January
Kick-off: 12h00 (local)
Vital Statistics: If Puaikura FC continue their winning streak against Lupe Ole Soaga and Utulei Youth they will be making history for their country. No club team for the Cook Islands has ever won the OFC Champions League Qualifier and continued on to the main competition.
The Players: New Zealander Paul Rhodes proved dangerous for Puaikura FC in their first match against Veitongo FC, dominating the centre of the park and scoring two of the Cook Islands team’s four goals.
Coach Quote: “We need to concentrate on what we need to do to make sure we give our best possible performance in what will potentially be the tournament decider.”
Puaikura FC: 1. Keegan INIA (GK), 2. Jarves APERAU, 3. Anthony SAMUELA, 4. Pekay EDWARDS, 5. Anthony HOBBS, 6. Kimiora SAMUELA, 7. Samuel MAOATE-COX, 8. Paul POILA, 10. Grover HARMON, 11. Temata KARIKA, 12. Conroy TIPUTOA, 13. Tyrell BARRINGER-TAHIRI, 14. Maro BONSU-MARO, 15. Kris CARPENTER, 16. Renta YAMAMOTO, 17. Dwayne TIPUTOA, 18. Paul RHODES.
Coach: Matthew Calcott
Lupe Ole Soaga [SAM]
Vital Statistics: Throughout the competition so far, Lupe Ole Soaga have only conceded through set plays. One of Utulei Youth’s three goals against the Samoans was from a corner kick, the other two from penalty kicks.
The Players: Lapalapa Toni’s speed up front proved a huge threat to Utulei Youth FC in their clash last Saturday. Toni managed to break the American Samoa backline twice, scoring two of Lupe Ole Soaga’s four goals. The 22-year-old made his debut for the Samoa national football team in a 3–2 victory against American Samoa at the 2016 OFC Nations Cup Qualifier held in August 2015. The Samoan’s won the qualifier and continued on to the OFC Nations Cup.
Coach Quote: “We’re excited right now. We’re looking forward to our game against Puaikura because we’re the two at the top now. We’re focusing on our own performance to win the game tomorrow.”
Lupe Ole Soaga: 1. Faalavelave MATAGI (GK), 2. Vaalii FAALOGO 3. Spencer KELI, 4. Vaa TAUALAI, 5. John TEO, 6. Darren ALATINA TALILAI, 7. Lawrie LETUTUSA, 8. Samuel MALO, 9. Suivai ATAGA, 10. Lapalapa TONI, 11. Ielome FUNAFUTI, 12. Suepasi PELESA, 13. Michael FIFI’I, 14. Tauati TANOAI, 15. Faafua ATAGA LALOATA, 16. Ivan FAAIVA, 17. Kareti SOAFA, 18. Mataio TOETU (GK).
Coach: Paul Ualesi (SAM)
Veitongo FC [TGA] v Utulei Youth FC [ASA]
Loto-Tonga Soka Centre
Tuesday 31 January
Kick-off: 15h00 (local)
Vital Statistics: If Veitongo FC place first or second in the competition, they will be making history for their nation. No Tongan football club has ever qualified for the OFC Champions League. The highest placing of a Tongan club was in the 2012-2013 OFC Champions League Qualifier where Lotoha’apai United earned equal points to first place Cook Islands’ Tupapa Maraerenga FC but fell short of qualification on goal difference.
The Players: Captain Sione Uhatahi is an OFC Champions League Qualifier veteran. Before playing for Veitongo FC in 2016, the 28-year-old made appearances in the competition with former club Lotoha’apai United, who represented Tonga annually since 2013. The defender also represented his country at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ OFC Stage One Qualifier in 2015, where he scored his first international goal in their 2-1 loss to American Samoa.
Coach Quote: “We must try to manage everything, and try to do everything correctly. If we make mistakes, Utulei Youth FC will take the chance to beat us.”
Veitongo FC: 1. Mahe MALAFU (GK), 2. Sione TUIFANGALOKA, 3. Sione UHATAHI, 4. Unaloto FEAO, 6. Kamaliele PAPANI, 7.Kilifi UELE, 8. Halapua FALEPAPALANGI, 11. Tupou UHATAHI, 12. Lafaele MOALA, 13. Sione KITE, 14. Vai LUTU, 15. Tuiakaetau FALEPAPALANGI, 16. Fetuli KATOA, 17. Etilei TUIONO, 18. Ofa KITE, 19. Oliveti VAI, 20. Deep KUMAR (GK), 21. Soane FAUPULA (GK).
Coach: Timote Moleni (TGA)
Utulei youth FC
Vital Statistics: Utulei Youth FC will be feeling confident heading into their clash against hosts Veitongo FC after the American Samoa hopefuls defeated the Tongans 3-2 the last time the teams met at the 2016 OFC Champions League Qualifier almost exactly a year ago.
The Players: Midfield substitute Austin Kaleopa only recently celebrated his 15th birthday, making him the youngest in the competition with 27 years between him and the oldest player. Kaleopa watched his side go down 4-3 to Lupe Ole Soaga from the bench on Saturday, so the teen will be eager to show his ability on field in the two upcoming matches.
Coach Quote: “We’re confident for our match tomorrow because of the way we played Saturday. We made some big mistakes but we’ve figured out those mistakes and we’re prepared to take on Veitongo.”
Utulei Youth FC: 1. Jonathan FA’AVAE (GK), 2. Neemia KALEOPA, 3. Tokoita VAIELI, 4. Kenneth KEREWI, 6. Rajendra SINGH, 7. Ryan SAMUELU, 8. Leuatea SIATUU, 9. Kome TOMASI, 10. Elama FAATONU, 11. BJ FIAALI’I, 12. Austin KALEOPA, 13. Moimoi TUALAULELEI (GK), 14. Paulo BOURNE, 15. Joe KOROIADI, 16. Iopu KALEOPA, 17. Sione MOEAKI, 18. Pesamino VICTOR, 19. Harvey MANU, 20. Peter HARRINGTON (GK).
Coach: Pita SINAPATI (ASA)