A stunning curling shot from the sideline by Dennis Ifunaoa has helped Solomon Warriors qualify for the OFC Champions League 2023.
They have beaten Kossa FC 2-1 in the second leg of their National Play-Off fixture in Honiara and means they advance to the main draw 3-2 on aggregate.
The match had an explosive start at Lawson Tama Stadium, with chances coming thick and fast inside the first 15 minutes. In fact, Warriors should have been up 2-0 after Dennis Ifunaoa missed handy shots from close range.
A header by Gagame Feni for Kossa went wide as well, then Timothy Bakale had a chance that went over the bar.
Warriors were awarded two handy free kicks awarded early as well, both of which passed harmlessly wide. In fact, the next best chance was when a good low ball into the box by Ifauaoa was almost turned into the goal by Kossa defender George Leaga. Luckily, goalkeeper Samson Koti was on hand to make a very good reactive save.
Only 30 seconds later, Kossa had taken the lead. Feni swept upfield and launched ball along the ground in the Warriors box, Timothy Maerasia couldn’t take it cleanly and Bakale was on hand to slot home into the open goal.
The way the game was going, it was only going to be a matter of time before there was a second goal, and it came in incredible fashion. With both defences laying off each other there was plenty of room for Ifunaoa to take the ball out towards the sideline and then launch a left footed curling shot. The ball arced over the head of a diving Koti and locked up the scores at 1-1, which held till halftime.
The attacking intent flowed over into the second half, and unfortunately it was another defensive lapse that led to Warriors taking the lead. A lovely ball through saw all three Kossa defenders rooted to the spot while their Warriors opposites sped toward goal, Koti had no option but to charge out and a good ball across to Harrison Mala saw him tap in.
After that, Warriors shored up their defence and while Kossa were a constant threat, they couldn’t break through. They had a perfect chance in the 78th minute when a cross by Gagame just couldn’t get a crucial touch on it, but they kept searching in vain for the equaliser that would send the game to extra time.
However the best chance in the remaining time came for Warriors to bury it in the 88th minute, replacement Japhlet Ngele found himself in wide open space but his shot went flying over the bar.
In the end, it didn’t matter as Warriors played out the additional four minutes to claim their spot in the OFC Champions League 2023 in Vanuatu.
SOLOMON WARRIORS 2 (Dennis IFUNAOA 33’, Harrison MALA 59’)
KOSSA FC 1 (Timothy BAKALE 20’)