Hosts look to build on stunning opening performance in OFC Champions League Qualifying Tournament on day two in Apia.
Lupe Ole Soaga SC expect to face a far sterner test in their second match at the Oceania Champions League qualifying tournament on Tuesday. Fresh from a 13-0 drubbing of American Samoa champions Ilaoa &To’omata on Saturday, Paul Ualesi’s side face Tongan champions Veitongo FC at 4 o’clock at the Football Federation Samoan National headquarters.
Veitongo FC lost their opening match 1-0 against Cook Islands champions Tupapa Maraerenga FC and will be desperate for the three points to keep their chances of qualifying for the OFC Champions league in Vanuatu in May. It’s a fact not lost on Ualesi as he prepares his side for an opponent he knows well.“We have played Veitongo FC a lot over the years. We know they are a very physical side, and we must prepare for that.” Ualesi said. “We are not high minded about the 13-0 win from the first game. The boys are focused and will stay humble in our preparations. Veitongo are not easy and they will want to bounce back from their loss.”
20-year-old forward Michael Tumua Leo may well be the trump card in Ualesi’s lineup for the match. He lit up the tournament with his phenomenal performance on the opening day scoring five goals. For Ualesi securing Leo a professional contract is a vital next step for him to progress his career.“Michael is a very talented player; he works very hard and is one of the fittest players in the team. He deserved the 5 goals and it’s good that he’s showcasing his talent. Our management are looking for a club that is suitable for him to develop. He has the speed, skills and attitude and is one of a kind. You can teach him whatever and he can execute. Ualesi said.
But Ualesi says the key now is for Leo to get into a more professional environment as soon as possible.
“That’s the only way for him to improve and build up his character because he has the talent, and we need more professional qualified coaches overseas to take him to the next level.” Ualesi remarked. The early game (1pm kick off) has Tupapa Maraerenga FC looking to capitalise on their encouraging first up win over Veitongo FC.
The Cook Islands champions secured the crucial three points thanks to an early penalty against the Tongans but were guilty of squandering several gilt-edged chances to make the game safe.
Coach Tuka Tisam says sharpening up in front of goal is a key focus against Ilaoa &To’omata. “We must work on our finishing, create more opportunities so we can finish in front of goal. Everybody is fully fit and raring to go.” Tisam said. “We have a job to do and are taking it day by day. We simply must create opportunities to score and ensure we get the three points.”
Victory for Lupe Ole Soaga SC and Tupapa Maraerenga FC would set up a blockbusting showdown in Friday’s final round of matches. It would be an effective final with the winner qualifying for the OFC Champions League Tournament in Vanuatu. It is a showcase event featuring National Playoff winners from New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Tahiti, New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, and the winner of this tournament.
Day two fixtures Tuesday:
Tupapa Maraerenga FC v Ilaoa & To’omata FC (1pm)
Lupe Ole Soaga SC v Veitongo FC (4 pm)