Samoa's Olympic dreams dashed

By Sulamanaia Manaui Faulalo 16 February 2024, 8:30PM

Samoa suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the Solomon Islands after a disallowed goal from Samoa woke the Solomon Islands in the semi-finals of Oceania Women's Olympic qualifiers on Friday afternoon at the Tuanaimato Football Field. 

The match was intense, and both teams played their hearts out. However, it was the Solomon Islands who emerged victorious in the end.

Samoa thought they had taken the lead on the hour mark when the ball from an inswinging corner ended in the net.  The goal was disallowed as Mederic Lacour adjudged a foul on the Solomon Islands goalkeeper Margaret Kofela from Arianna Skeers and the scores remained level.

A couple of minutes later confusion in the Samoa defence let in substitute Solomon Islands Sandy Aniholland who scrambled the ball home for her first goal of the tournament, giving Batram Suri’s side a crucial lead.

Samoa's captain Lianna Soifua seemed disappointed with the results. 

"It's just one goal, and we weren't able to put one in the back of the net today, but luckily, we will have more chances in the future," said Soifua. 

Samoa started the match brightly and looked dominant in the first half. However, they had a few chances to score, with Torijan Lyne-Lewsi hitting the top of the goalpost a few times and Leah Manuleleua breaking through Solomon Island's defenders. 

The front line felt the absence of striker Xevani Salanoa and winger Khelistar Murray-Kumitau, who were both out due to injuries, while 16-year-old Malia Jessop played an impressive game, coming out strong in attack.

The disappointment was evident in the team as they felt the decision to disallow the goal was unfair. The disallowed goal also left Samoa coach Juan Chang Urrea frustrated and disappointed and this was visible when he confronted the match officials after the match. 

Despite their efforts from Monique Fischer's free kick in the 70th minute to find an equaliser, Samoa couldn't find a way past the Solomon Islands' defence. 

Soifua acknowledged that all the girls in the team found chemistry throughout the tournament and worked out well in the end. 

"It's awesome - we were able to find something that works for us as a whole and it worked up until now, obviously," she said. 

The Solomon Islands sealed the result with a little over 10 minutes remaining, when Samoan defender Alisa Tuatagaloa brought down a rampaging Ileen Pegi in the box, and the captain rifled the penalty home to double the lead 12 minutes from full-time, securing her nation’s place in the final.

"I'm so proud of my girls - the effort and the patience and the determination to win. I'm just happy and proud," said Pegi. 

New Zealand also came out on the victorious side and beat Fiji 7-1 in the second semi-finals and will now face the Solomon Islands for the only spot available for the Olympic Games in Paris on Monday 19 February at 5 pm.

By Sulamanaia Manaui Faulalo 16 February 2024, 8:30PM
Samoa Observer

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