Tupapa Maraerenga FC and Lupe Ole Soaga have set up an intriguing final day in the OFC Champions League 2023 Qualifying Play-Offs in Apia, Samoa. The Cook Islands champions eased past Ilaoa & To’omata of American Samoa 8-0 in their second game of the tournament, while the Samoan Lupe Ole Soaga side were impressive in a 9-0 win over Veitongo FC.

Big first half secures Tupapa Maraerenga win

Coming off a tight 1-0 win over Veitongo FC in their first game, Tupapa Maraerenga were determined to up their goal difference against Ilaoa & To’omata. The American Samoans were handed a 13-0 loss in their first game, so the only way seemed to be up when the game kicked off in sunny conditions at Football Federation Samoa headquarters.

For a while there, Ilaoa & To’omata’s defence held admirably, but Tupapa Maraerenga were in an attacking mood that would yield results eventually. In the 13th minute a lovely set up by Grover and Lee Harmon saw a pass land at the feet of an unmarked Jake McCoy, with the big striker sending home a shot to open the scoring.

It took another 10 minutes for Tupapa to score again, with Paora Porter rifling home a lovely near post shot from the edge of the box. Tyler Saghabi made it 3-0 with another long range shot, but then Ilaoa & To’omata only had themselves to blame for the next couple conceded. A penalty conceded saw Lee Harmon convert, then Saghabi was left all alone up front to knock in his second.

McCoy completed the scoring for the half with the goal of the match, backheeling a through ball from Porter over a defender and sweetly finishing to make it 6-0. Ilaoa & To’omata goalkeeper Fa’apaia Eti finally had something to smile about when he saved another penalty attempt on halftime.

However, any thoughts of a repeat scoreline from their first game were admirably dashed by Ilaoa & To’omata in the second half. Defenders Jaiyah Saelua, Matthew Taga’i and Piula Taua were outstanding, frustrating the Cook Islanders until right before the end. Darryl Ulufale and Ben Tofaeono both had chances to get Ilaoa & To’omata on the board, but their shots went wide.

Tupapa’s seventh goal was worth the wait, when Dwayne Tiputoa blasted the ball into the top corner. Ngametua Tukana danced through to score in the 90th minute, but the final score didn’t reflect just how hard the American Samoans worked in the second half.

TUPAPA MARERENGA FC 8 (Jake MCCOY 12’, 43’, Taylor SAGHABI 32′, 39′, Paora PORTER 22’, Lee HARMON 36′, Dwayne TIPUTOA 87′, Ngametua TUAKANA 90’)


HT: 6-0

Lupe eye main draw spot with commanding win

Despite torrential rain hitting just after kickoff, home fans were given something to smile about as Lupe Ole Soaga cruised to a 9-0 win over Tongan rivals Veitongo FC. The win sets them up for a showdown against the day’s other winners, Tupapa Marererenga of Cook Islands.

Lupe came in with a mood to attack, with a free kick offering the chance for their first goal after 15 minutes. Jamie Mason sent it in for Andrew Setefano to play the ball down to Jared Cuniff to finish and make it 1-0.

Another free kick saw Setefano grab one for himself to double the lead, with another good ball in from Mason giving the striker enough room to climb high and head home at the far post. Lupe could have had a couple more but chances from Cuniff and Vaa Taualai were saved by Veitongo goalkeeper Semisi Otukolo.

However, just before the break the Cuniff scored his second decisive goal, latching onto a long ball bounce to chip over Otukolo and make it 3-0. Just on the break, an unlucky penalty call on Veitongo gave Taualai a chance to make amends for an earlier spot kick miss, which he blasted past Otukolo and effectively put the game out of reach from the Tongans.

The rain eased up in the second half, but Lupe’s willingness to attack stayed strong, although it led to a fair bit of space for Veitongo when they made breaks up field. The pressure paid off in spectacular fashion in the 64th minute, when another free kick found Michael Leo, who juggled the ball past a defender and the keeper to score a memorable goal.

Just moments later Leo was taken down in the box, with the referee having no hesitation in awarding a penalty that Taualai converted. Soliai Letutusa then capped off a brutal period with another goal a few minutes later, again from a free kick that the replacement latched onto with a powerful finish. Defender Harrison Bolton-Roberts provided a wonderful run and through ball to set up Darren Alatina-Talilai for another classy finish to make it eight, then an unfortunate defensive mishap resulted in an own goal by Veitongo to complete the scoring.

Leo was a constant menace for the rest of the game, but it is fair to say that Lupe had well and truly earned the right to shift down a gear. They will take on the unbeaten Tupapa Marererenga in what is effectively the tournament final on Friday.

LUPE OLE SO’AGA 9 (Jared Cuniff 15’, 40’, Vaa TAUALAI 45+1’ pen, 66’ pen, Andrew Setefano 20’, Michael LEO 64’, Soliai LEUTUSA 70’, Darren ALATINA TALILAI 80′, Sione FEHOKO 85’ OG)


HT: 4-0