PR - Samoa left it excruciatingly late to secure their place at the 2017 OFC U-17 Championship in Tahiti with two additional time goals seeing them past Cook Islands at J.S. Blatter Football Complex this evening.
Tonga also ended their campaign at the 2016 OFC U-17 Championship Preliminary on a high after beating American Samoa 2-0 in the opening match.
Samoa coach Desmond Faaiuaso was a bundle of nerves on the bench as his side waited until the dying minutes of the game to steal the lead and the victory.
“I was very nervous until the last, I think, two minutes when we scored two beautiful goals.
“It was a great performance, I’m very lucky to have this group of players that I’m coaching. They are very special.”
The deciding match was always expected to be a tight one with the hosts needing a win to keep their dream of progressing alive.
Cook Islands were equally determined to achieve their goal.
Although they took a cautious, defensive approach – needing only a draw to see them through – the team still managed to threaten Samoa’s backline.
As the lone striker Conroy Tiputoa had his work cut out for him but he never made it easy and forced goalkeeper Eti Fatu into making a number of daring runs out of the safety of his area to deny the goal.
It was an incredibly even match with Samoa counter-attacking at pace, often putting Cook Islands on the back-foot. Sauiluma was the backbone of the squad, showing up all over the park. Unafraid to take players on, he wove through the middle and unleashed a series of powerful shots to test Manaariki Pierre’s reflexes.
It continued to be a back-and-forth encounter right up until the dying stages of the match when Osa Savelio, who had spent most of the game at right back before moving into an attacking role, sent the ball spiralling into the back of the net on the stroke of 90 minutes.
With just the additional time to play Cook Islands made a double substitution, but it proved too little, too late as Sauilima sealed the victory for Samoa in the fourth minute of additional time.
For Richard Anderson and his charges it was a devastating end to what had been an excellent campaign from the Cook Islanders.
“There have been a few tears shed in the changing room,” he says.
“I can’t fault the boys for their effort, commitment, discipline or dedication tonight – it was spot on.
“I think it’s one of the cruellest ways to miss out on qualification in the dying minutes.”
OFC Match Day 3 Results
Samoa 2 – 0 Cook Islands
Tonga 2 – 0 American Samoa
Samoa is now progressed to the next stage which is the 2017 OFC – U17 Championships in Tahiti with the seven remaining OFC Members.