(Photo credit: OFC Media via Phototek. Auckland City FC players bringing joy to kids in local school visit)
Solomon Warriors FC and Lupe Ole Soaga SC will look to keep their semi-final hopes alive when they meet in a crucial Group A match in Luganville tomorrow.
Both sides are coming off opening match defeats with the Solomon Warriors beaten 3-1 by defending champions Auckland City FC on Sunday before Lupe Ole Soaga succumbed 6-0 to Suva FC. They were both reduced to 10 men for a large part of their respective games following sending offs.
Lupe team manager La’i Tautiaga says his side took a battering against Suva with three players, Isaako Poai Sione, Vito Laloata and Karl Apelu carrying niggles and in doubt for the match. Added to Lupe’s woes, Lawrie Letutusa is suspended for one game following his red card.
But Tautiaga is nevertheless optimistic of an improved performance from his side. “The players got carried away with the atmosphere in the first game and our experienced players need to take the lead and help the younger players. I think our boys are fit enough to cope with the pressure of this game,” Tautiaga said.
His Solomon Warriors counterpart Frank Ne’e isn’t underestimating the Samoan side’s ability to bounce back from their heavy defeat.
“Lupe is a good team, technically, they are stronger, well-built players and it will be a tough game for us,” Ne’e commented.
The Solomon Warriors are likely to make changes with a view to a possible virtual knockout match against Suva FC on Saturday and Ne’e says they will adapt their style after playing a counter attacking game against Auckland City.
“We will have some changes and might change our style trying to hold possession longer and play total football. My boys are ready, physically and mentally,” Ne’e added.
The second match features the two unbeaten teams when Auckland City FC meet Suva FC. The winner is a virtual certainty to qualify for the semi-finals. Suva FC coach, Maxwell Thaggard says they are not thinking ahead to the final pool match against the Solomon Warriors and are determined to cause a major upset.
“We regard Auckland City as one of the best teams in our competition and they have a good system in place and have been playing similar football since I’ve been watching them. We have to believe in ourself, concentrate and stick to the game plan,” Thaggard remarked.
Thaggard says he has studied the defending champions in detail and is acutely aware of what Suva FC can’t afford to do.
“We learned a lot , it’s about being patient, that’s how Auckland City plays, they put you under the pump and if you crumble you will get a red card and that’s what they wanted, they just kept pushing the ball around until they found space.”
Auckland City winger Liam Gillion is wary of the Fijian side who showed their goal scoring prowess against Lupe.
“Suva are a very good all round team whether it’s at the back where they are solid, in midfield where they look disciplined or up front where they were very clinical against Lupe.
“It’s our club’s 100th game in the OFC Champions League and when we played the first one in 2005 against Sydney FC, I was just three years old!” Gillion added.
“It’s a good achievement by the club and it’s going to be a special day for us to reach that milestone. But Suva look like a very well organised team and physically very strong so we expect a difficult challenge tomorrow.”
Watch every match the OFC Champions League 2023 in Vanuatu streaming LIVE and free here on OFC TV on the OFC website. Information will be updated below accordingly.
All times local:
MATCH DAY TWO
1200 Solomon Warriors v Lupe Ole Soaga – WATCH HERE
1500 Suva FC v Auckland City FC – WATCH HERE
1200 Tiga Sport v Hekari United – WATCH HERE
1500 Ifira Black Bird v AS Pirae – WATCH HERE
MATCH DAY THREE
1200 Lupe Ole Soaga v Auckland City FC – WATCH HERE
1500 Solomon Warriors v Suva FC – WATCH HERE
1200 Hekari United v AS Pirae – WATCH HERE
1500 Tiga Sport v Ifira Black Bird – WATCH HERE
1130 Winner Group A v Runner Up Group B – WATCH HERE
1500 Winner Group B v Runner Up Group A – WATCH HERE
1400 WATCH HERE