History retells itself

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Two goals and three assists for magical Rafa as Solomon Islands thrash New Zealand 5-0 in second pool match

BY ROMULUS HUTA

THE last thing members of the national under-16 side would have expected was to walk off the Lawson Tama Stadium pitch on Wednesday afternoon coming away 5-0 victors.

The stunning victory by the Solomon Islands youth side against the young All Whites on home soil in their second match of the Pool A competition of the OFC Under-16 Championship aided the youngsters put one foot in next week’s semi-final.

The victory fast-tracks the recap of a piece of history attained some 25 years ago when the Solomon Islands national under-17 side defeated New Zealand 2-1 in the 1993 Oceania Under-17 World Cup qualifiers in Honiara. But this time they did it in a more swelling style unlike the outcome two decades ago by surpassing the previous margin with another three goals ontop of it.

Young football prodigy Raphael Le’ai ‘Rafa’ was the toast for the home side having scored twice and assisted with the other three goals registered by Javin Wae, Leon Kofana and Maxwell Keana, respectively, in the ensuing rout.

Playing infront of a capacity crowd, the Stanley Waita-coached side employed a high intensity game strategy from the start and their constant mounting pressure resulted in a corner kick being awarded on the right side of the western end of the pitch.

Le’ai stepped up and delivered in a well-taken ball which met Wae’s head in perfect precision who stirred it past New Zealand goalkeeper Luca Taylor for the first goal in the 18th minute, bringing the home crowd supporters into frenzy.

Solomon Islands players Chris Satu, Raphael Le’ai and Maxwell Keana celebrating their second goal yesterday in the 5-0 win against New Zealand. PICTURE: BENZ NEWMAN

Solomon Islands maintained composure and held off possible threats coming from New Zealand as they surged upfront in search of a quick equaliser.

In the 27th minute, Le’ai made a solo run into the box after beating his marker and puts a cross in at the back post for Charles Mani to finish off where he did exactly as they would have wanted – however, the flag went up and the goal was ruled out for an offside.

Le’ai continued to combine well with Steward Qwanafia, Mani and Chris Satu upfront and hosts of chances came begging causing more trouble for the New Zealand defense.

Le’ai picked up a ball outside the area and raced in past New Zealand defender Ryan Verney who fell short in attempts to stop him. The speedster found space and whipped the ball in past Taylor from a tight angle for the second goal.

The 2-0 lead remained until halftime break.

The match resumed for the second half and the visitors made two early replacements with Verney and Bradly Wilson coming off for Matt Garbet and Joseph Lee, respectively.

The substitutions took to a good effect for New Zealand which saw three scoring chances created and only to be kept out by fine defending and goalkeeping from Solomon Islands.

Solomon Island striker Raphael Le’ai slides with the ball as New Zealand defender chases him

Solomon Islands introduced its first substitution of the day in the 54th minute when key towering defender Wae came off for Benbate Lamupio to seek medical treatment for a minor wrist injury.

A minute later, Solomon Islands wins a free-kick and Le’ai was on hand to deliver in a fine low drive which met captain Kofana who made no mistake with an easy tap past Taylor for the third goal.

The opened floodgates infront of the New Zealand goalmouth appeared to be an unbelievable scene inside the roaring jam-packed stadium.

Solomon Islands dominated with more upfield attacks as Le’ai and Qwanafia tormented the New Zealand defense.

The hosts brought in two more fresh legs which saw Qwanafia and Mani coming off as Densely Gesini and Philip Ropa were introduced onto the fray.

The duo bursts onto the scene with a sudden impact and Ropa was able to work a hard way from the left to deliver a laying cross for Le’ai to finish off for the fourth goal in the 85th minute and extended his tournament tally to six goals.

A minute later, Keana slotted in the fifth goal after a shot from Le’ai rebounded off the underside of the crossbar onto the six yard box.

The match was forced into another four minutes of injury time before the whistle was blown for full time.

Quite satisfying for the home crowd, they remained in the stadium to cheer for the local heroes whilst an atmosphere filled with mist of dejection hovers over the young All Whites players.

The victory takes Solomon Islands to six points to the top of Group A ahead of New Zealand, PNG and Vanuatu.

In the other match played yesterday morning, PNG thrashed Vanuatu 5-0.

The competition continues today with two more matches featuring teams from Pool B starting at 10am.

See Pool A table tally below:

Team Tot Won Draw Lost G+ G- GD Pt
1 Solomon Islands 2 2 0 0 10 0 10 6
2 New Zealand 2 1 0 1 8 5 3 3
3 Papua New Guinea 2 1 0 1 5 5 0 3
4 Vanuatu 2 0 0 2 0 13 -13 0

 

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