Cook Islands lose football opener

Monday May 28, 2018 Written by Published in Soccer

Cook Islands faced a disappointing 3-0 defeat to a resurgent Tongan side, while Samoa flexed their muscle against their neighbours American Samoa, on the opening day of the OFC U19 Championship Qualifier on Saturday.

 

Samoa had to battle hard against their determined cousins in a hotly contested local derby. The side also managed a 3-0 win.

Despite creating a number of good goal-scoring opportunities, Valerio Raccuglia’s side were left frustrated as skipper Gabriel Taumua made a number of crucial tackles in the heart of the American Samoan defense to keep the scores level at the end of the first half.

Although claiming the underdog tag prior to the match, the American Samoans grew in confidence to cause a number of concerns for Samoa’s defence.

The turning point came with the injection of Henry Smith into the match, which turned out to be an inspired substitution by the Samoan head coach in the 62nd minute.

Fifteen minutes later Smith was on hand to grab the lead against the tiring American Samoans and he only needed another four minutes to double his side’s advantage.

He completed his hat-trick deep into injury time to give Samoa a somewhat flattering 3-0 victory.

Head coach Valerio Raccuglia has admitted his side didn’t play to its full potential.

“I didn’t think we were good in the first half – we wasted too many chances and we didn’t create as much as I hoped. And when we did we didn’t take it.

“So we were disappointed with the first half and I told the boys I wasn’t happy. Much better in the second half.”

Despite the defeat, Raccuglia’s counterpart Tunoa Lui was pleased with his side’s effort.

“We know Samoa is a very good team, and our team are underdogs, but they held off Samoa in the first half,” said Lui.

“It’s just they were a little bit tired and watching the ball too much instead of reacting.”

Backed by a vocal local crowd, Cook Islands started the second match of the opening day with plenty of promise, putting Tonga under a lot of pressure inside the opening 15 minutes. But after weathering the storm the visitors took the lead.

The home team found themselves three goals down 20 minutes later, after two penalties slotted home by Mohammad Rajani.

Cook Islands head coach Alan Taylor rued his side’s first-half mistakes but he also heaped praise on his players for their effort.

“Disappointing, after 30 minutes you give away two penalties and a silly goal and it’s hard to come back but the effort was good, the commitment was great,” said Taylor.

“We didn’t quite manage to get that first goal – if we got that first goal I think we could have got more than one, but we couldn’t quite break it down in the first half.

“I can’t fault them for their effort – down to 10 men and they were still putting their bodies on the line.”

Following their well-deserved win, Tongan head coach Soane Malia couldn’t hide his delight.

“Our play in the first half was to protect our defence and when we got our opportunities on the counter try to score,” said Malia after the match.

“We knew that Cook Islands always take the lead in these matches before, but we have a vision, we have a goal, we work together and we’ve been looking better throughout our preparations – and we believe in what we are doing.”

            - OFC Media

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