Lupe Ole Soaga SC have taken a big step towards joining the group stages of the OFC Champions League 2020 with a 2-0 victory over Veitongo FC in their Qualifying Stage match in Auckland on Saturday.
Lupe Ole Soaga SC 2-0 Veitongo FC
Goals in the first half to import Matthew Chant and defender Suvai Ataga proved the difference as the Samoan side made the most of the strong wind behind them.
Lupe had a handful of chances, particularly in the opening spell, but a combination of some rusty finishing and good goalkeeping by Veitongo gloveman Sinilau Taufa ensured the scoreline remained close.
Chant’s 27th-minute header from close range made up for an earlier opportunity where he pushed his shot wide with the goal at his mercy. It was only four minutes later when Ataga doubled the advantage.
The first half had moments where it was scrappy and neither side were able to retain possession for an extended period of time. Adjusting to the artificial turf at the Ngahue Reserve would have required an adjustment for some of the players.
With a healthy lead heading into the second stanza, Lupe had fewer chances as the game wore on but they defended well with captain Andrew Setefano making a number of important clearances.
Veitongo did their best to find a goal and they were awarded a penalty in the 61st minute, leaving Vai Lutu to take the spot kick for the Tongans. Lupe goalkeeper Zane Green was equal to the task though and his save was a defining moment in the game for his team.
“It was an awesome save from Zane,” Lupe coach Paul Ualesi said after the game. “It was a really good feeling for us, as well.”
There’s two spots in the OFC Champions League 2020 group stages on offer from the three-team Qualifying Stage so this was a big result for Lupe.
“A win is a win. I think my boys deserved the win,” Ualesi said. “It was good for us for the start of the Qualifying Stage, I know the Tongans are here to win.”
Veitongo coach Mark Uhatahi had no complaints after the game and said his team did all they could.
“We’ve learnt from this game and we’ll work on the mistakes that we made in this one and learn from it for the next game.”
Their next game isn’t until Friday, January 31 when they will play Cook Islands club Tupapa Maraerenga FC. In meantime, Lupe will meet Tupapa at the Ngahue Reserve on Tuesday at 4pm.