Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
The ten men of Solomon Islands impressively saw off Samoa in their second Group B match to all but secure their place in the semi-finals at OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier in Auckland.
Despite going a man down after Alford Kanahanimae saw a straight red for a lunging tackle on Samoa’s Luke Salisbury, Solomon Islands were by far the better side and well worth the 3-0 margin.
Samoa struggled to create clear-cut chances for most of the ninety but did almost take the lead following a scramble in the box, only to be denied by an excellent smothering save by Junior Petua in the early stages.
Hudyn Irodao had two good chances in quick succession to give the Solomon Islands the lead but was thwarted on both occasions by Joel Bartley in the Samoan goal.
With the score still deadlocked, momentum seemed to be swinging in the favour of Samoa when Kanahanimae threw himself into a tackle with both feet off the ground, leaving referee Alex King with little choice but to brandish a straight red card.
Despite going down a man however, Solomon Islands rallied impressively for the remainder of the half and took a crucial lead with just over five minutes of the first period remaining. Norman Winford’s cross from the right was spilt by Bartley and Junior Rocky was on hand to tap into the unguarded net.
Both sides made changes at half-time but Samoa continued to struggle in making inroads against their much more intense and physically imposing opponents.
Substitute Alfia Aunga was presented with an excellent chance to double the lead when played through on goal but Bartley stood up well and blocked the N0.9’s effort.
The second arrived from the subsequent corner-kick however. Samoa’s failure to clear a loose ball was punished by captain Javin Wae, slamming the ball home to register his third goal of the competition in two games.
More slack defending led to the third and put the result beyond doubt. Bartley’s attempt to play out from the back was intercepted by Ben Fox and the midfielder made no mistake, rifling his effort home to seal the three points.
Kyah Cahill almost pulled one back for Samoa after he dispossessed goalkeeper Petua in the box but the resulting effort was blocked. Juan Gobbi’s follow-up was then well saved by the recovering Petua.
Samoa will now face Vanuatu with both sides vying for second place in the group and a semi-final berth. Solomon Islands will look to complete a 100% group stage record when they face Tonga.
Solomon Islands: 3 (Junior ROCKY 39′, Javin WAE 60′, Ben FOX 64′)