Kiwi FC advance to next phase
Hosts Tupapa Maraerenga FC and Samoan champions Kiwi FC have both advanced to the Group Stage of the region’s premier club football competition as the sun set on the OFC Champions League 2019 – Qualifying Stage at the CIFA Academy in the Cook Islands.
Kiwi FC have left their best to last, thrashing their Tongan rivals Lotoha’apai United FC in their quest to become the 16th and final team to be included in the next phase of the 2019 OFC Champions League as Qualifying Stage runners-up.
Under the blue tropical sky a gentle breeze swept across the ground to offer the 22 players some respite from the heat as they walked onto the field to the tune of the FIFA anthem ahead of their decisive clash at Rarotonga’s CIFA Academy.
Due to their better goal difference a draw would have been enough for Lotoha’apai, while the Samoan champions were under no illusion of what was required from them in order to keep their Champions League hopes alive.
With their survival on the line, Martin Tamasese’s troops wasted no time to settle their nerves through Paul Scanlan’s curling drive in the third minute that was soon followed by a powerful strike from Lotial Mano before Silao Malo’s clinical finish at the end of his eye-catching solo run inside the 26th minute.
Sensing the vulnerability of the shell-shocked Tongans, Kiwi FC went for the jugular led by Paul Scanlan who was on target twice again, including a spectacular 43rd minute drive that cleared the cobwebs from the top left corner, as he completed an impressive hat-trick while helping his side to 5-nil half time score.
It got worse for Lotoha’pai six minutes after the break when Lionel Taylor lobbed the ball over the keeper to add another, but to their credit the Tongans pulled one back through Hema Polovili from the penalty spot.
However, that failed to halt the Kiwi FC juggernaut and Paul Scanlan soon restored normal service by tapping in for his fourth before Kitiona Nauer added his name to the score sheet and Lotial Mano grabbed a brace to cap the 9-1 rout in injury time.
Following their emphatic win, coach Martin Tamasese was full of praise of his players
“I’m so proud of the boys and the result.
“Our strength is our speed and our technical side, so we worked really hard on that which helped us to pressure Lotoha’apai and helped to score a lot of goals,” the former Samoa international added.
Paul Scanlan’s four goal heroics also received a special mention from the Kiwi FC coach.
“He is a speedster and a very talented guy and I’m really happy for him to get four goals.”
Looking forward to the next phase, Matasese insists his side will be ready to make Samoa proud at the biggest stage for club football in the Pacific.
“Four years ago we represented our country in the Group Stage and ever since we wanted to come back, so this is our chance not only to qualify for the next stage but to be competitive,’ he said.
Meanwhile, his Lotoha’apai counterpart Lui Muavesi couldn’t hide his dismay.
“It was a disappointing game for me as a coach, the boys didn’t do what we have planned.
“The slow start once again hit us badly, in the first 20 minutes they had already three goals, really we lost it in the first ten minutes,” the native Fijian lamented.
Lotoha’apai United FC [LOT]: 1 (Hema POLOVILI 58’ PK)
Kiwi FC [KIW]: 9 (Paul SCANLAN 3’, 40’ 58’ 74, Lotial MANO 11’, 89’, Silao MALO 26’, Lionel TAYLOR 51’, Kitiona NAUER 82’)