Suva FC have proven far too strong for Lupe Ole Soaga in their opening Group A match at the OFC Champions League 2023 in Vanuatu.
Two goals in three minutes after a scoreless first half hour provided the catalyst for the Fijian side to stroll to a commanding 6-0 victory against a physical Samoan side who were reduced to 10 men for nearly two thirds of the match.
First, Vanuatu born Azariah Soromon pounced on a superb cross from captain Samuela Drudru in the 31st minute to fire Suva FC in front. Four minutes later Alex Saniel smashed home from close range. Some of the Samoan players took exception to the Suva celebrations and defender Lawrie Letutusa was booked for the second time and sent off.
Down to 10 men, Lupe conceded an own goal from defender Karl Apelu four minutes before the break to leave the Fijian side in control at half-time.
Lupe Ole Soaga regrouped after half-time and were more composed, defending resolutely to limit too much further damage. Suva FC for their part were content to sit on their lead and made several substitutions, perhaps with a thought to their second Group match against defending champions Auckland City FC on Wednesday.
However they added a fourth goal in the 63rd minute through a thunderbolt drive from the edge of the box from Marlon Tahioa and a fifth in the 69th through substitute Rusiate Matarerega who rifled home from an acute angle. He rounded off the scoring with a powerful header in the 89th minute.
It had been a lively start to the first half with Vito Laloata having his moments using his pace to get in behind the Suva FC defence, but it was the Fijian side playing with plenty of width who controlled the ball in midfield.
Lupe Ole Soaga goalkeeper Osa Savelio was forced into several saves before the opening goal.
Earlier defending champions Auckland City FC fought back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to beat the Solomon Warriors 3-1 in the opening match of the tournament.
Group B action kicks off on Monday local time with AS Pirae FC laying Tiga Sport FC and Ifira Blackbird FC meeting Hekari United in Port Vila.
Suva FC: 6 (Azariah SOROMON 31′, Alex SANIEL 34’, Karl APELU OG 42’, Marlon TAHIOA 63’, Rusiate MATAREREGA 69’, 89’)
Lupe Ole Soaga FC: 0