Photo Credit OFC Media via Phototek
Trailing by two goals in as many minutes Tonga looked set to be on the way to another heavy defeat against the Solomon Islands in their final round robin match at the OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup in Papeete.
Having lost 26-3 to Tahiti and 21-3 to Fiji, the developing nation full of youngsters have found the going tough this week. But against the Solomons, having endured a rough start the players all hailing from the islands of Ha’apai showed tremendous character. The four times former OFC Beach Soccer Nations Cup champions eventually prevailed 15-3.
Justin Toetu’u scored Tonga’s first goal in the third minute and an own goal soon followed putting Tonga level with their vastly more experienced opponents.
Max Fa’ari restored the Bilikiki lead a minute later but for the next six minutes the Tongan defence kept their opponents at bay. Goalkeeper Lemeki Taufa made some telling saves and it wasn’t until the 10th minute the Solomon Islands found a way through again. And they did so in quick succession with Bobby and Fa’ari each scoring their second goals of the period. Still 2-5 reflected a much improved opening period effort from Tonga.
And the Tonga defence remained compact and committed in the second period with the Solomon Islands attackers made to work hard for their openings. Fa’ari grabbed a couple more goals and was the biggest attacking threat but the final goal of the period was scored by Toetu’u, his second of the match.
The improvement continued from Tonga in the final period as they conceded just five more goals including two from Fa’ari who ended with six for the match. The Solomon Islands now wait to see if Tahiti can account for Fiji which would ensure the Bilikiki are through to Saturday’s final.
Solomon Islands: 15 (James NAKA 1’, 15’, 34’, Albert BOBBY 2’, 10’, Max FA’ARI 4’, 11’, 21’, 23’, 35’, 36’, Thompson PETER 13’, 28’, 30’, Benbasi SUEKAI 20’)
Tonga: 3 (Justin TOETU’U 3’, 24’, Own Goal 3’)