Two goals inside 12 minutes in the first stanza were enough to seal all three points for the Tahitians over their Solomon Islands opponents who had fought back strongly and dominated all quarters of the pitch in the second half but could not find an equalizer.
Before a jam packed crowed that were heavily behind the Warriors, the Tahitians settled the faster, making good use of their heights and pacey wingers, creating and providing a lot of dangerous through balls and crosses that were unfortunately not converted.
With a wealth of experience from Captain Marama Vahirua and Raimana Li Fung Kuee, the Tahitians had the upper hand and made full use of their slow starting opponents, controlling the run of play early on.
After eight minutes the Tahitian duo of Vahirua and Li Fung Kuee nearly bounced an early goal, after catching the Warriors defenders napping, however the later could not make use of the golden opportunity having been set up by his skipper, Vahirua.
Warriors however responded with some one-touch ball control of their own, beach soccer sensation, James Naka producing the flair on the left wing, cutting inside before unleashing a fierce shot just inches wide of the post.
Striker Micha Lea’alafa was also in an inspiring form, ducking into the AS Pirae defence from outside the 18-yard-box before blasting a ripper which was tipped over the woodwork by the ever outstanding Jonathan Torohia in goal for AS Pirae.
Both teams were pressing hard trying to find the opener, however it was AS Pirae who had the luck on their side, with Vahirua showing his experience and class by slamming home a rebound volley after a first attempt was saved by Warriors custodian Samson Koti.
Warriors were then on the attack again after conceding the goal, Judd Molea, Naka and Lea’alafa all linking up well, however were unfortunate to find the equalizer.
Whilst on the opposite side, Vahirua and Li Fung Kuee continued to cause havoc for the Warriors defence line of Captain Hardis Aengari, Matson Fenny and Fred Fakari with their class and good ball control.
Hard work and continued pressure from AS Pirae saw them again finding the back of the net, this time through midfielder Jimmy Tepa who rose the highest and head home past Koti.
As Pirae headed for the breather with a two goal advantage over their opponents.
The second half sparked life again into the Solomon Warriors with excellent string of passes, inching forward on several occasions however were either denied by the Torohia or off target.
Warriors then substituted instrumental forward Dennis Ifunaoa for dynamic wide-man and former Amicale FC star Gibson Daudau.
Daudau’s inclusion brought more energy and life into the Warriors team as he linked up perfectly with Naka, Lea’alafa and Molea to continue tormenting AS Pirae’s defence line.
The continued pressure resulted in a free kick ten meters off the corner of the 18-yard-box which Naka wasted no time in blasting home.
Warriors continued applying pressure after the goal, however AS Pirae concentrated on maintaining the lead and keeping the sneaky Warriors attackers at bay.
Naka again broke down the left 15 minutes before time to unleash a ravishing shot which was palmed by Torohia after some good reflexes.
Just as Warriors thought AS Pirae were going to defend, the Tahitian champions somehow started utilizing their long accurate passes from Augustin Dallera and Vahirua who would have extended the lead for the Tahitians had it not been for some good goalkeeping from Koti.
After 89 minutes the game was still fierce with Warriors desperately trying to find an equalizer whilst AS Pirae looked to extend the lead and rest in comfort zone.
With an additional six minutes on the clock, Warriors were in full speed mode, making use of the sneaky and pacey Lea’alafa however could not find the back of the net.
Final score Solomon Warriors 1:2 AS Pirae
By JEREMY INIFIRI