Rafa leads Olympic boot race

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Despite losing three matches in Youth Olympics campaign

BY ROMULUS HUTA

Raphael Le’ai once again proved himself an attacking threat. Credit: FIFA via Getty Images

RAPHAEL Le’ai’s superb display which saw him hauling in a hat-trick and a brace at the Youth Olympic Games in Argentina on Thursday was not enough to salvage a dominant outcome for the national under-18 futsal side as they succumbed to a 10-4 loss against Russia.

The loss makes it three in a row for the national representatives who sits at the bottom spot in the futsal competition’s Group B in the event currently taking place in Buenos Aires.

Le’ai, who becomes Solomon Islands’ most consistent performer at the competition now has seven goals registered to his name after scoring twice in the opening 9-2 loss to Iran and once in their second 11-6 loss against Costa Rica.

The seven goals put Le’ai at the top of the scoring chart at the Youth Olympics.

The third loss points Solomon Islands to the exit door of the competition despite having a match to spare.

In yesterday’s contest, it didn’t take long for Russia’s Danil Karpiuk to open the scoring, less than a minute in fact, with the Russian opening proceedings as he intended them to continue, according to reports from FIFA.

Karpiuk was the author of a further two goals in the first half, claiming his hat-trick, and was joined on the scoreboard by teammates Pavel Sysoliatin, Maxim Okulov and Pavel Karpov before Solomon Islands were able to hit back with one of their own which came, of course, courtesy of Le’ai.

Ilia Fedorov then scored one of his own to give Russia a 7-1 lead going into the half-time break.

It was then Solomon Islands who were first off the blocks in the second half as Le’ai netted his second.

However Russia weren’t done yet with a further two different players scoring and Okulov got his brace.

Le’ai for his part continued his scoring ways, notching a further two goals to take his tally for the match to four.

However despite their defensive performance Solomon Islands were left looking at a 10-4 defeat at the hands, or feet as it were, of the Russians.

Sharing his thoughts following performances in the first three matches, under-18 futsal head coach Stanley Puairana said lack of concentration costed them.

“It’s a good experience for the boys but I think it comes down to lack of concentration and focus on our game plan. Our boys need to pick up quick and when they fell back, that’s when we began conceding goals. But overall, the boys played well against the world’s bests,” the young coach stated.

Puairana also commended inform goal po111111acher Le’ai, who continues to bring in goals despite losing matches.

“Le’ai is a hardworking player who always likes to score goals. He always remains positive and believes in his abilities to get goals. He’s combining well with key partner Franskter Rukumana who also has a very high transition going forward. They have been playing together for a long time and in most occasions share good passes.”

Solomon Islands remain as the crowd favourites every time they take it to the court in all their previous matches.

Solomon Islands Chef de Mission to the Buenos Aires Games, Morris Maitaki said the boys performed with their hearts out for the country and only to fall short on wining their matches.

“I think these boys have put up spirited performances in their recent matches despite the losses.

“The team spirit is still high within the camp and I’m so grateful to see them displaying good sportsmanship.”

Solomon Islands will play its final pool game against Brazil on Sunday.

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