Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Samoa finished their OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 campaign with an incredible victory over Tonga to seal a 7th place finish in Auckland.
With neither side having registered a victory in the tournament thus far, it was an opportunity to go out on a high for the two young sides.
It was the Tongans who hit the front early, taking advantage of a free-kick opportunity on the edge of the box, with the ball laid off to Hemaloto Polovili, who confidently side-footed into the corner to give his side the lead.
The joy was short-lived however, as Samoa captain Vaa Taualai squared things up, finishing from close range. Teammate Jefferson Fa’amatau almost completed the quick turnaround but shot straight at the keeper when well placed.
With the clock ticking towards half-time, Tonga restored their advantage. Tevita Falepapalangi taking advantage of some excellent work on the left-hand side from Unaloto Aho, poking home from a couple of yards out.
Samoa came close to levelling matters within seconds the restart but Dilo Tumua’s hooked effort from close range bounced onto the top of the crossbar.
There was a sense of inevitability when the second Samoan goal did eventually come. Taualai getting his second, forcing the ball over the line with the scrappiest of finishes despite some last ditch Tonga defending.
Taualai then turned provider minutes later, when his slide-rule through pass found Falaniko Nanumea who confidently rounded the keeper before rolling the ball into the net.
To Tonga’s credit, they never went away and were rewarded for their persistence with an equaliser. Maloni Manu’olevao with the simplest of finishes after a smart set-up from Vai Lutu.
With the tie seemingly destined for extra-time, there was still the opportunity for one final twist and it came within two minutes of the final whistle. Captain Taualai completing his hat-trick and clinching victory for his nation with a close-range finish to give Samoa a perfect end to their campaign.
Tonga: 3 (Hemaloto POLOVILI 5′, Tevita FALEPAPALANGI 17′, Maloni MANU’OLEVAO 34′)
Samoa: 4 (Vaa TAUALAI 6′, 29′ 39′, Falaniko NANUMEA 31′)