Solomon Islands have one foot in the quarter-finals of the OFC U-19 Championship 2022 after a 3-0 win over Cook Islands in Tahiti.
A win or draw for Group A rivals New Zealand later today will ensure the Solomons place in the final eight, after goals from Selwyn Hou, Paul Francis and Junior Rocky decided a tight contest at Stade Fautaua.
Just as they did in their opening game of the tournament against New Zealand, the Cook Islands found themselves a goal down inside two minutes. Rocky pinched the ball from sprawling Cook Islands ‘keeper Ngereine Maro to cross for Hou, who headed home the opener from close-range.
Maro then did well to deny Francis after a delightful piece of skill from the forward in the box. However, Francis did not have to wait long for his fourth goal of the competition, albeit in fortuitous fashion, as his half-volley deflected off Nuku Mokoroa and looped over the helpless Maro.
The Cook Islands did demonstrate their threat from set-pieces shortly after, Nia Remuera nearly pulling a goal back after a deep free-kick into Solomons territory.
However, it was a rare foray forward, with Maro again saving brilliantly to deny Alden Suri as half-time approached and twice again early in the second period from Francis and Rocky.
The last time these two nations met at a OFC U-19 Championship was back in 2016, with the Solomons winning 3-0. With 20 minutes left they emulated that scoreline, Rocky poking the ball beyond Maro after Suri’s effort had bounced kindly into his path.
Resolute defending from the likes of Mokoroa and Remuera kept the Solomons at bay for the rest of the fixture and the Cook Islands will look for a positive result against American Samoa on Tuesday, September 13.
Solomon Islands will be confirmed their place in the quarter-finals should their next opponents New Zealand beat American Samoa in today’s other Group A fixture.
Cook Islands U-19 0
Solomon Islands U-19 3 (Selwyn HOU 2’, Paul FRANCIS 27′, Junior ROCKY 69′)