Vega-Arango and Co sealed final spot
OUR national men’s football team has repeated the 2004 history to qualify for the Stage 3 of World Cup Qualifiers final after beating Papua New Guinea 2-1 in Port Moresby last night.
The Felipe Vega-Arango led side only needing a point to progress but they came back from a goal down to snatch 3 valuable points to top Pool B with 7 points.
Both sides started with purpose in the early changes of the match as Philip Mango twice denied the Kapuls with some brilliant reflex saves from close range.
First real chance of the first half saw PNG defenders cleared the ball off the goal line as our boys pressured the home side.
Moments later in the 18th minute, PNG Starman Raymond Gunemba poked home from a loose ball to put the hosts in front. And home crowd erupted in celebration.
With a goal down, Solomon Islands regrouped in search for an equaliser in the final 20 minutes of the first half.
Two players in stunning form Jerry Donga and Micah Lea’alafa combination up front left the PNG keeper isolated as the goal is at their mercy.
However defender Felix Komolong intentionally handled the ball to deny a clear goal scoring opportunity which resulted in a penalty. Komolong was also red-carded.
In the 33rd minute, Captain Henry Fa’arodo stepped up to convert the spot kick to level the encounter at 1-1.
Tempers flies in the last 10 minutes of the first half as Raymond Gunemba and Atkin Kaua received yellow cards from Japanese referee Jumpei Iida.
Veteran Striker Benjamin Totori created the winning goal on the stroke of half time to set up in-form Jerry Donga through on goal as he slotted past a stranded Warrisan in the 2 minutes of added time.
Both teams went to the dressing room 2-1 in favour of Solomon Islands.
Vega-Arango made a tactical switch to brought in Timothy Bakale for Atkin Kaua before the second half resumed.
PNG with a man down had to withstand the furry of attack from the national side but the Kapuls still threatens in the later stages of the match.
An injured Donga was replaced by Emmanuel Poila in the 65th minute as our lads holds on.
Richard Hiromana made his international debut as he replaced Robert Laua in the 88th minute.
The hosts nearly grabbed an equaliser in the dying embers of the match but Emmanuel Simon fires over to the relief of the Solomon Islands bench.
Our boys held on in the additional 4 minutes to seal a remarkable back to back win over our Melanesian rivals and secured a final against New Zealand.
The Stage 3 final will be played during the FIFA International Match Calendar on 28th August and 5th September this year.
By SIMON ABANA