Cook Islands side Tupapa Maraenga FC have made a superb start to the OFC Champions League Qualifying tournament in Samoa. They have beaten Tongan champions Veitongo FC 1-0 in the first match of the tournament played in searing heat at the Football Federation Samoa National Headquarters in Apia.
Tupapa took an early lead through a penalty in the 9th minute struck by Australian based Taylor Saghabi following a push in the back of Dwayne Tiputoa by Veitongo defender Siaki Huni.
Veitongo FC almost equalised through a long-range thunderbolt effort from striker Christopher Kefu in the 15th minute, but his spectacular shot just went over the bar to the relief of Tupapa Maraerenga goalkeeper Manaariki Pierre.
Tupapa Maraerenga almost extended their lead in the 23rd minute when Aaron Simpson’s curling long range effort just dipped over the crossbar.
Veitongo FC enjoyed plenty of possession in the lead up to half-time but were unable to seriously test Pierre in the Tupapa Maraerenga goal.
The Tongan side had a wonderful chance to level the scores three minutes into the second spell when Pita Tukimaka blasted wide, but he was fractionally offside when the ball was played through and it wouldn’t have counted.
Moments later the Tongan side were down to 10 players when Siaki Huni copped a second yellow card for a foul and was sent off with 38 minutes remaining.
The Cook Islands side didn’t really capitalise on their one-man advantage and were content to keep things tight at the back and to sit on their lead. Veitongo battled valiantly a man down and earned a free kick in a dangerous position in the 72nd minute but Tuia Falepapalangi’s strike was brilliantly saved by Pierre diving away to his right in the Tupapa goal. That was as close as it got for the Tongan side. Tupapa should have made it 2-0 in the dying stages, but substitute Ngametua Tuakana fired over the cross bar from close range five minutes from full time.
Tupapa Maraenga FC 1 ( Taylor SAGHABI 9’ pen)
Veitongo FC 0 (Siaki HUNI red card 52’)