Kooline FC has become the first side to qualify for the inaugural OFC Futsal Champions League after narrowly topping the standings in the 2019 SIPA Futsal League.
The team only just edged close rivals Marist FC by goal difference after both sides ended the competition with 21 points.
In general it was an incredibly tight race in the league this season with Kooline, Marist, Mataks and FK Gold all vying for the a place at the top of the table and the coveted regional berth.
Going into the final round, Kooline, Marist and Mataks remained in with a chance to win.
Kooline made sure to end on a high, registering their biggest win of the season, 18-2, against Joma FC.
With several Solomon Islands international in their ranks, Kooline had the upper hand over a defensive Joma side.
Captain Coleman Makau led by example by scoring a hat-trick, Robert Laua also notched in a hat-trick while Elis Mana grabbed six alongside goals two goals a-piece from Ronado Cromwell, Benjamin Mana, and Arnold Maeluma to wrap up the title-winning result.
The result saw Kooline finished the league with 21 points and a goal difference of 41, well out of reach of Marist.
Kooline coach Stanley Puiarana, who led the Solomon Islands national U-17 side to second-place in the same competition last year, was proud of the results his side obtained amongst strong opposition.
“I want to congratulate my boys for winning the league and qualifying for the OFC Futsal Champions League,” he said.
“We have been working hard to achieve this and thank you to the Kooline management for supporting the boys.
“It is down to the hard work of everybody who has been involved and I want to also thank the other eight teams for a wonderful competition this year.”
Puiarana stressed that Kooline will continue working hard in preparation for the OFC Futsal Champions League and plan to use the upcoming SIPA Futsal Challenge as part of their preparation.
Last year’s champions Marist needed to beat Mataks by 20 unanswered goals to be in with a chance of reclaiming their crown in the final match of the league.
Mataks, led by former Kurukuru defender Francis Lafai, includes some exciting young talent and they were soon on the front foot thanks to a smart finish from Junior Mana.
Kurukuru talisman Elliot Ragomo pulled a goal back for Marist and moments later Charlie Otainao put them in the lead.
The second half saw the teams level on 4-4 at one stage before Marist scored a late goal to clinch all three points, however they still fell short of retaining their title.
The 2019 SIPA Futsal Challenge will be held in August to conclude the futsal competition calendar for 2019.