Photo Credit: OFC Media via SIFF

S-League champions Solomon Warriors will take a narrow lead into the second leg of their OFC Men’s Champions League – National Playoff match against Central Coast FC, after scoring early and holding despite losing Emmanuel Poiil to a second-half red card.

It was an ideal start for Solomon Warriors, who after nearly scoring in the first minute due to poor distribution, managed to take the lead in the fifth, with Solomon Islands international Gagame Feni showing his class.  

After winning a penalty coming down the byline, Feni went to take it himself and cooly put it away in the left corner for the opening goal. 

Following a transitional spell, Central Coast grew into the game, winning their physical battles and looking to play the energetic Bobby Leslie into dangerous positions. From a wide free kick, Charlie Otainao connected with a powerful header that went just wide, while Solomon Warriors’ slipping discipline saw Alvin Hou booked. 

As the game went on, Solomon Warriors began to create more dangerous counterattacks, with Feni getting the crowd excited with his skill against an unconvincing Central Coast defence. Both sides threatened as the tempo lifted towards half-time, but at the interval it was only Feni’s early goal on the scoresheet. 

Early in the second half, Solomon Warriors hopes of a first leg win took a blow. After an off-the-ball incident involving Leslie and Emmanuel Poila, referee Gideon Mamuala sent off Poila, sending Solomon Warriors down to ten men with the majority of the half remaining.

Photo Credit: OFC Media via SIFF

In response, Central Coast stepped up their chase of the game, pushing more players forward and creating opportunities.

Coming off the bench, both Junior Fordney and Hudyn Irodao forced strong saves out of keeper Timothy Maearasia, as the Solomon Warriors looked to maintain a healthy balance between defending deep and maintaining a counter-attacking threat. Feni nearly doubled the away sides’ lead, attempting to lob Mango off his line, but lifting his shot just over the bar.  

Following a rough Central Coast challenge, emotions threatened to boil over for Solomon Warriors, holding on to a slim lead and frustrated at greater punishment not given. 

Leslie – Central Coasts’ most consistent threat throughout the game – almost equalised as the 90 minutes neared a conclusion, spurring a chance from nothing and hitting the crossbar with his shot. 

As six minutes of added time began, Central Coast pressed their case even more against the defence-minded Solomon Warriors but with time ticking, they couldn’t find a breakthrough, with the ten men holding on for a crucial first leg victory.

Central Coast FC: 0
Solomon Warriors: 1 (Gagame FENI 5’) 

HT 0-1