Suva FC have finished runner-up in Group A of OFC Champions League in Luganville. The Fijian side has beaten the Solomon Warriors 2-0 in a bruising final Group match and will join defending champions Auckland City FC in the semi-finals in Port Vila on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek).
Going into the match Suva FC needed only a draw to advance to their first OFC Champions league semi-final having a superior goal difference, but any thoughts of sitting back and taking a defensive approach were quickly dispelled.
Vanuatu born Azariah Soromon fired Suva FC in front in the 15th minute after a lovely through ball from his countryman striker Alex Saniel. Soromon found himself in space on the edge of the box and calmly slotted the ball past a diving Joseph Komu in the Solomon Warriors goal.
Franco Ne’e’s side needed to win the match to progress and falling behind early meant they had to score at least twice but they were never really able to settle in to what was a bruising physical encounter with four yellow cards dished out in the first 20 minutes. Referee David Yareboinen showed seven yellow cards in total in the first half – four to Suva FC players.
Soromon almost had a second goal just before half-time smashing a freekick onto the crossbar and a minute later Willy Daudau pulled the ball across the face of the goal in what was their only real chance in the first spell.
Solomon Warriors almost scored from the restart with a sweeping attack which saw Norman Winford cross the ball from the right flank for Denis Ifunaoa but defender Inoke Turagalailai was able to clear off the line.
Ne’e took off dangerman Norman Winford who appeared to be carrying a niggle, replacing him with Stanford Fakasori who lasted barely a couple of minutes before leaving the field on a stretcher after falling heavily on his shoulder in a collision contesting the ball.
Suva FC effectively sealed their path to the last four in the 70th minute when captain Samuela Drudru found himself in space on the right and he fired a blistering shot through the hands of Komu to double their advantage. Saniel to the delight of the Luganville crowd was named player of the match.
Earlier the scheduled match between Auckland City FC and Lupe Ole Soaga didn’t take place. The Samoan side unable to field a side due to a lack of fit players.
Auckland City coach Albert Riera is disappointed his side didn’t get to play but has quickly turned his attention to next week’s semi-finals.
“We would have loved to have played another game in front of these crowds instead we had a good training session.”
Asked whether a week off between matches would be a positive or a negative for his side, Riera felt it wouldn’t have a detrimental effect.
“We have to find the positive and be flexible and I believe it will be a positive and we can have two full training sessions before the semi-final,” he reflected.
Having praised the training facilities and the quality of the playing surface before the tournament, Riera was effusive in his praise for the people of Luganville.
“ We have had a great time in Luganville, engaging with the locals and it has been an eye opener the way they love the game. The training facilities and the ground have been spot on and second to none,” Riera beamed.
Group B will be decided in Port Vila tomorrow with all four teams in with a chance of making the semi-finals.
Suva FC: 2 (Azariah Soromon 15’ Samuela Drudru 70’)
Solomon Warriors : 0
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MATCH DAY THREE