Semi-Final match ups confirmed at OFC Olympic Qualifier in Auckland

Vanuatu will meet hosts New Zealand and the Solomon Islands will face Fiji in Wednesday’s semi-finals at the OFC Olympic Men’s Qualifier in Auckland

The Solomon Islands and Vanuatu have notched up wins on the final day of Group B action at Trusts Arena with the Solomon Islands beating Tonga 5-1 to finish with a perfect record in Group play. Earlier Vanuatu overcame Samoa 3-1 to clinch runner up spot in the Group.

Solomon Island’s Junior Rocky. OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier 2023, Tonga v Solomon Islands, Trusts Arena, Auckland, Sunday 3rd September 2023. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

They may have lost their first two matches and failed to score a goal, but Tonga made much of the early running without seriously testing Davidson Malam in the Solomon Islands goal.

But in the 16th minute a lightening quick Solomon Islands counterattack saw Junior Rocky on the end of the cross just beating Nimilote Moala in the Tongan goal to open the scoring.

Paul Likiliki almost levelled for Tonga a couple of minutes later, but his header was cleared off the line from Innocent Sinahanua.

The Tongans continued to show plenty of endeavour going forward but the final pass lacked accuracy.
Six minutes out from half-time Rocky was put clear in the box but Tongan captain Opesi Tufangaloka did superbly preventing the striker from getting a shot away.

But on the stroke of half-time Dalton Saeni pounced on a flick on and race 30 metres before driving the ball past Moala into the net to double the Solomon Islands lead.

The Solomon Islands made a couple of changes at the start of the second half, and they paid almost immediate dividends. Substitute Calvin Ohasio scored his side’s third goal after a beautiful passing move involving Norman Winford and captain Javin Wae.

Hudyn Irodao then weaved his way through the Tongan defence before firing a weak shot straight at Moala and Christia’an Ohasio blasted over the bar a minute later.

Hudyn Irodao made it four for the Solomons with a powerful show that beat Moala at the near post in the 63rd minute. Solomon Islands coach Eddie Marahare made more substitutions enabling all 21 members of his squad to get game time during the Group stage of the competition.

Norman Winford then had a shot cleared off the line before Leon Kofana had a free header but flashed it over the crossbar.

Tonga had a glorious chance to get on the scoreboard when Lisiate Feke was put clear through on goal, but he fired straight at Davidson Malam in the Solomon Islands goal.

A couple of minutes later Malam made a hash of a clearance and the ball fell to David-John Tuamoheloa who fired into the empty net for Tonga’s first goal of the tournament.

Substitute Wesley Toitani restored the four-goal cushion a couple of minutes later with a classy finish for the Solomon Islands.

TONGA   1 ( David-John TUAMOHELOA 74′ )

SOLOMON ISLANDS 5    ( Junior ROCKY 16′   Dalton SAENI 45′ Calvin OHASIO 47′ Hudyn IRODAO 63′ Wesley TOITANI 77′   )

HT 2-0

Needing at least a draw to progress Vanuatu recovered from going behind early to win and end Samoa’s hopes of progressing in the competition.

Samoa made a promising start and after creating a couple of half-chances, deservedly took the lead in the 16th minute.

Juan Gobbi headed home from a corner. But the lead was short-lived as Vanuatu stung by the setback, hit back four minutes later with a spectacular left footed strike from outside the area from Ronn Tasarur in what shapes as a contender for goal of the tournament.

Samoa captain Kyah Cahill almost restored his side’s lead a couple of minutes later, but he couldn’t quite direct a header on target.

It was Vanuatu who went ahead in the 30th minute from the penalty spot after a rash challenge from Alex Malauulu just inside the box on George Chichirua. Referee Matthew Conger initially ruled a free kick but on consultation with Assistant referee Mark Rule, pointed to the spot. Joe Moses made no mistake firing into the left- hand corner of the net.

The Samoans pressed forward in search of an equaliser and had a couple of half chances, one a header straight at the keeper and another a volley that went just wide of the upright.

Vanuatu were brilliant on the counter and scored their third in the 38th minute when George Chichirua after a powerful run down the right delivered a pinpoint cross for Moses to head home for his second.

It was a tall order for Samoa who needed to score three more goals,  but they continued to create chances with defender Kaleb De Groot-Green heading straight at Massing Kalotong in the Vanuatu goal from a freekick late in the half.

Luke Salisbury nearly pulled a goal back for Samoa 11 minutes into the second half with his shot from the edge of the box forcing another save from Kalotong.

Vanuatu were content to sit back and look for opportunities on the counter and were always a threat with their pace.

Samoa’s challenge effectively ended in the 70th minute when Jesse Vine was shown a straight red card for an elbow into the face of Chima Chillia.

VANUATU         3       ( Ronn TASARUR 20′ 16′ Joe MOSES Penalty 30′ 38′)

SAMOA           1       (Juan GOBBI 16′)

HT 3-1

-OFC Media Press Release

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