The Solomon Islands couldn’t be separated from their rivals Vanuatu, drawing 0-0 when the two sides met at the weekend in a friendly match at Lawson Tama Stadium in Honiara.
The hosts are preparing for their 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Qualifier – OFC Stage 3 Final against New Zealand in September and the match against Vanuatu was an opportunity for coach Felipe Vega-Arango Alonso to take a new approach.
“This match was a good test for our bots, especially the new players who were fielded today,” Vega-Arango Alonso said.
“I told the boys not to allow any goals and I’m happy that they played by our game plan.”
Vanuatu dominated the opening 20 minutes of the match with FIFA U-20 World Cup star Bong Kalo putting multiple shots on goal, but rarely troubling Phillip Mango, in goal for the Bonitos.
The Solomons side opted for a more defensive style of play than they’re used to, but once they had adapted to the adjustments were soon putting pressure on their opponents.
Micah Lea’alafa caused havoc for Vanuatu’s backline to deal with, and teaming up with Gagame Feni and Jerry Donga the trio threatened on several occasions. Vanuatu goalkeeper Chikau Mansale was forced to make an impressive save after Lea’alafa beat two defenders before releasing a powerful shot.
The second half saw Solomon Islands introduce fresh legs, among them Solomon Cup finds Clement Baegeni, Clifton Aumae, Alfred Raragia and Eugene Tekobi.
The side started to look sore confident as the match continued with midfielder Atkin Kaua coming close with a 70th minute volley, before Feni had an opportunity ten minutes later.
With New Zealand on the horizon, Vega-Arango Alonso believes the defence efforts of the side against Vanuatu are a good start.
“We need to have a strong defence against New Zealand and that is one of our main focuses at the moment.”
The WCQ Stage 3 Final will be held over two matches, the first in Auckland, New Zealand on 1 September, followed by a second in Honiara on 5 September.