Lupe claims historic Champions League win
Lupe Ole Soaga has become the first Samoan club to win in the Oceania Champions League group stages when they defeated Fiji’s Ba, 4-3, on Wednesday night.
They led 4-0 at halftime and held on after the break at Stade Mahina in Tahiti to secure the historic result, and an unlikely three points in Group D of the competition.
Lupe are also the first club from any country to win a match in the competition having progressed from the Qualifying Stage tournament for developing associations since that format was introduced in 2013.
The Samoans had to withstand some early pressure, with goalkeeper Zane Green saving twice in the opening 10 minutes.
But then Lupe took the lead through another one of their imports when striker Jamie Mason steered home a header from a well-placed cross by his fellow frontman Albert Bell in the 11th minute, after some beautiful buildup play.
There were chances for both Bell and left winger Jarvis Filimalae as the match opened up, with each team looking to move the ball forward quickly.
In the 28th minute Lupe were awarded a penalty when right winger Suivai Ataga was clumsily hauled down in the box, and midfielder Tomas Mosquera made no mistake from the spot.
Lupe were playing fluid football on attack, and they were rewarded when Bell cut back for midfielder Vaa Taualai to slot in a third goal in the 38th minute.
And defender Ritchievoy Ueglitone got in on the act for their fourth, running in behind the Ba defence and keeping his cool to finish past keeper Beniamino Mateinaqra before halftime.
Jarvis Filimalae and Albert Bell both had chances to score in the last five minutes or so, but Lupe would have been more than content to carry their 4-0 lead into the second period.
Former New Zealand and Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert may well have had some choice words for his Ba players at halftime, because it was one-way traffic when play got back underway.
The Fijians were making all the play through the hour mark as night began to descend on the Stade Mahina.
They hit the crossbar and forced Zane Green into a save before Malakai Tiwa finally got Ba on the board in the 72nd minute.
Ba quickly fired in two more over the next four minutes through Saula Waqa and Samuela Drudru, and they put Lupe under siege in the search for an equalizer.
Green had to make a couple of late saves to keep his side in the lead, and they had to hold on for six minutes of additional time after the 90 minutes were up.
But the Samoans did it, achieving what is a truly momentous result for football in the country.
Lupe coach Fa'aeanu'u Paul Ualesi was understandably emotional after the game as he soaked up the occasion before speaking to OFC Media.
"It's a proud moment for us, this is history for a club in Samoa, just winning a game," he said. "I'm so proud of my boys.
"I was just holding the boys up, saying, hey if you want to make history just stay on your feet, stand up on your feet and have a big heart."
Ualesi said he was grateful to their fans for the support and prayers they had sent the team.
Lupe have one more Group D match remaining on Saturday against Auckland City, where an unlikely draw or win would get them into the knockout stage of the tournament.
But after a historic first win in the competition, anything is possible for the boys from Magiagi.
LUPE OLE SOAGA SC: 4 (Jamie MASON 11', Tomas MOSQUERA 29' (PK), Vaa TAUALAI 38', Ritchievoy UELIGITONE 42')
BA FC: 3 (Malakai TIWA 72', Saula WAQA 74', Samuela DRUDRU 76')