SOLOMON Islands football coach Felipe Vega-Arango says the 2-2 draw with the All Whites of New Zealand at home on Tuesday feels like a win in the second leg of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers – OFC Stage 3 final at Lawson Tama Stadium.
“Well for me it feels like a win because you are losing two to nothing in the first 20 minutes with two mistakes against a professional team because all our players they have jobs, they are amateurs,” he said.
The hosts comeback from two down to end their road to Russia with a historic draw with the much fancy New Zealand outfit.
“We can never forget about the gap and most of the times when you are losing two to nothing like that you can go down and they keep fighting for themselves,” the Spaniard stated.
With the home advantage, Solomon Islands started the thrilling first half on the front foot as they looked the better side in the opening exchanges.
The visitors went ahead in front in the 14 minutes as Myer Bevan followed up on his rebound to slot home.
Veteran striker Benjamin Totori thought he scored in the 19th minute with a thunderous shot but New Zealand custodian Marinovic tip over for safety.
A blunder by Nelson Sale saw his header looped over a stranded Philip Mango in the 21st minute for New Zealand’s second goal.
Solomon Islands poster boy Micah Lea’alafa who missed the first leg due to a visa setback was brought down in the penalty area on the 27th minute.
Lea’alafa step forward to send Marinovic the wrong way putting his side back into the contest.
Big moment of the match arrived in the 77th minute as evergreen James Naka was taken down for another penalty.
Captain Henry Fa’arodo led by example to level the score as he sent Marinovic the wrong way.
Marinovic denied Totori again in the dying embers of the match to finish the final leg OFC World Cup qualifiers with a draw.
When asked what his overall take of the match is, Vega-Arango said the lads did their country proud.
“I think they did a wonderful job as it will be really unfair to lose the game.
“2-2, I think it’s a good score for both teams but we have more chances more than they did actually.
“Its a good stepping stone for the country as they need to work into the right direction and if they can keep working in this way, I think the future of the Solomon football looks bright,” the national team coach explained.
Solomon Island could not advance to the World Cup qualifiers inter-continental play-off after losing out 8-2 on aggregate.
The match was under the control of three referees from Qatar.
Local fans have reportedly enjoyed the match which saw the stadium being packed both inside and outside.
Many more hundred fans were listening on the road and watching via TV for the live coverage.
By SIMON ABANA