Photo Credit: OFC Media via Tonga FC

Vaivase-Tai FC have powered their way past Tupapa Maraerenga FC in the opening match of the OFC Men’s Champions League – Qualifying in Tonga, scoring four unanswered goals to give them the perfect start in qualifying group.

The game commenced with Tupapa asserting their presence, taking possession straight from kick-off. However, it was Vaivase-Tai who quickly turned the tide, firing the first shot towards the goal, setting the tone for a match filled with grit and determination.

The 11th minute saw a pivotal moment when Tupapa’s Sunai Joseph was booked with a yellow card, a setback that only seemed to embolden Vaivase-Tai. A penalty awarded to them in the 14th minute was the perfect opportunity to capitalise on their opponents’ faltering and they did not disappoint, Vaa Taualai cooly converting from the spot to give his side the lead.

Tupapa struggled to regain their composure whilst Vaivase-Tai oozed confidence, controlling much of the ball in the opening 45 minutes. Tupapa’s Gichin Fuhiniu did have a golden opportunity to level matters midway through, but a misjudged effort squandered the chance. Both teams traded corners, with the one-goal difference still leaving an element of doubt as the half drew to a close.

With only minutes left before the break Taualai doubled his side’s lead with a second goal in the 44th minute. An injury lead to an additional six minutes of time at the end of the half and it was enough for Vaivase-Tai to add a crucial third. Alman Kwan’s brilliant strike landing a third goal and solidifying their lead as the teams headed into half-time.

The second half began with two Vaivase-Tai players subbed out due to cramps, but the intensity on the field did not wane. Tupapa’s Daniel Taokia saw a sliver of hope, slicing through Vaivase’s defence, but his efforts were thwarted by a steadfast block. With the seconds ticking down and the result beyond doubt, Vaivase-Tai added a fourth, Dilo Tumua taking advantage of a goalkeeping error to finish smartly and put a seal on a commanding performance.

Vaivase-Tai FC: 4 (Vaa TAUALAI 14′ (P), 44′, Alman KWAN 45+6′, Dilo TUMUA 90+1)
Tupapa Maraerenga FC: 0

HT: 3-0

Words: Sammy Mataroa – Cook Islands FA

In the opening day’s second fixture, host side Veitongo FC dealt with difficult weather conditions and a physically robust challenge from Vaiala Tonga SC to secure an impressive victory in front of a partisan home crowd.

The excellent Hemaloto Polovili was at the heart of everything good that Veitongo did, though he did pass up the best opportunity to open the scoring after 7 minutes from the penalty spot. His effort from 12 yards brilliantly saved by Vaiala Tonga goalkeeper Sione Moeaki, who reacted quickly to deny the follow up from Christopher Kefu.

A minute later and the home side had their much-deserved breakthrough. Pita Uhatahi drilling left-footed under the grasp of Moeaki from inside the box to give his side the lead.

The second and third followed swiftly. Polovili got a deserved goal with a smart finish before Elias Kendler brought down a looping cross to add a third and put Vaiala Tonga in serious trouble.

The American Samoa side were paying dearly for their high defensive line, with Veitongo time and again finding acres of space in behind, leaving Moeaki exposed. Lisiate Feke made it four having been set up by the excellent Polovili, before Via Tutu and then Kendler sprang the offside trap to make it 6-0 heading into the half-time interval.

Photo Credit: OFC Media via Tonga FA

Vaiala lifted their performance in the second-half, holding out for the first quarter of an hour before Veitongo added a seventh. Captain Vai Lutu getting his second of the day with a close range tap-in. Almost immediately from the kick-off, Kendler completed his hat-trick, finishing into an empty net from Polovini’s square ball.

Vaiala gave away a second penalty of the game in the 75th minute, when Lutu was brought down in the box. Substitute Sione Uhatahi duly smashed the ball down the middle to make it 9-0. A minute later Veitongo hit double digits, when Amoni Fifita broke through and finished well past Moeaki.

Feke grabbed his second and Veitongo 11th in the 85th minute, taking advantage of a Moeaki mistake to roll the ball into the empty net. At the other end, Petu Pouli went closest to a consolation for Vaiala Tonga but his free-kick just cleared the crossbar.

Sione Uhatahi got his brace as the goals piled up. An excellent left-footed effort from the edge of the box as Vaiala Tonga wilted further. Uhatahi still had time to complete his own hat-trick, finishing from close range with virtually the last kick of the match.

Veitongo: 13 (Pita UHATAHI 11’, Hemaloto POLOVILI 15’, Elias KENDLER 22’, 43’, 62′, Lisiate FEKE 26’, 85′, Vai LUTU 33’, 61′, Sione UHATAHI 75′ (P) 87′, 90+3′, Amoni FIFTA 77′)
Vaiala Tonga SC: 0

HT: 6-0