Solomon Warriors remain in the hunt for a place in the semi-finals at the OFC Champions League 2023 in Vanuatu after a 3-1 win over Lupe Ole Soaga in Luganville. (Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek).
The Warriors bounced back from their 3-1 defeat to champions Auckland City FC on Sunday with a largely dominant performance at Soccer City Stadium.
The result ends the hopes of progressing to the knockout stages for the Samoan side who have no points after two defeats and only Saturday’s Group match against Auckland City FC remaining. Lupe Ole Soaga however put up much more resistance than they did in their 6-0 defeat to Suva FC on Sunday.
Solomon Warriors controlled the game from the outset, dominating possession and playing with plenty of width on attack. Vanuatu-born Harrison Mala was a constant threat and provided the assist for the opening goal, a powerful run down the right hand side flank before delivering a pinpoint cross to Dennis Ifunaoa whose looping header evaded Osa Savelio in the Lupe goal.
Molea Tigi should have doubled the lead in the 28th minute but his side footed effort from 12 yards was saved by Savelio.
Solomon Warriors didn’t have to wait long to get their second when a bobbling cross from Ifunaoa was fumbled by Savelio and Harrison Mala was on hand to blast home from close range in the 36th minute.
Ifanaoa had the ball in the back of the net a few minutes later but his effort was ruled out for offside.
Lupe Ole Soaga battled hard and created their first opportunity just before the break but Vito Laloata’s header was straight at Joseph Komu in the Solomon Warriors goal. Then on the stroke of half-time Komu came out of his box and missed a through ball for Kopelani Kopelani to pounce on, but the Solomons defence were able to clear before Kopelani could get a shot away.
Tigi had a great chance to extend the lead 15 minutes into the second half but clean through on goal his shot to the left of the keeper was parried away.
The game started to open up in the final third of the match, played in scorching early afternoon heat, and Lupe got back into it when a through ball caught out the Solomon Warriors defence and Jefta Siba was able to round the keeper and score the first goal for the Samoan side in the tournament.
Any hopes of a dramatic comeback were quashed four minutes later however as Ifunaoa was on the end of a sweeping move to smash home past a hapless Savelio for his second to restore a two goal buffer.
Laloata almost pulled one back for Lupe 10 minutes from time but after a sharp turn from an acute angle his shot narrowly went wide of the left hand post.
Ifunaoa was a constant threat up front for the Solomon Warriors and his brace earned him player of the match honours.
Solomon Warriors: 3 ( Dennis IFUNAOA 15’ 67’, Harrison MALA 36’)
Lupe Ole Soaga: 1 ( Jefta SIBA 63’ )