Solomon Islands has failed to qualify for the grand finals of the OFC Nations Cup after being edged by host Papua New Guinea (PNG) 2-1 last night at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.
It was an equally fought match which saw both teams ended the first half with a 1-1 draw.
PNG scored first from a 38th minute strike from Michael Foster, who received a well-timed pass from Raymond Gunemba before rounding keeper Phillip Mango, gave the Kapuls the lead they were after.
However they soon allowed the Solomon Islands to pull themselves back into finals contention when Judd Molea put the ball past Ronald Warisan directly from the corner.
The host came back strong with a faster pace with more determination and hard work paid off from a perfect header to give them the winning goal in the 85th minute much to the celebration of the PNG fans who packed the stadium.
The tension increased after the break as both sides continued to search for a winner, with quick counter attacks taking play from end-to-end.
Solomon Islands goalkeeper Phillip Mango had a blinder denying the impressive and relentless strike force of Gunemba, Foster, Nigel Dabingyaba and Tommy Semmy time and again.
However despite Mango’s being in-form as ever, he couldn’t hold Papua New Guinea off forever and as the clock headed into the final ten minutes of the match Dabingyaba pounced on a loose ball to give his side the lead for a second time.
This time the home side held tight to that one-goal advantage to see themselves through to a final against New Zealand on Saturday.
Coach Moses Toata made two substitutions 10 minutes before the final whistle but was too late for them to find another equalizer.
The win was a dream come true for Papua New Guinea captain David Muta.
“I’m so excited. It was my first time leading the boys from PNG in a semi-final and I’m just so happy and so pleased with how well they all performed,” Muta says.
“A big thanks to all our supporters who have been behind us since day one.
“Now I’m going to be captaining the side in the final and that means a lot. I think it’s going to be a really big challenge against New Zealand, but we have to stand strong and walk together as a team for the next game.”
Having been in a similar position four years ago Henry Fa’arodo was hoping results might be different this time around, however accepts that his side didn’t quite have the edge to get past an organised PNG side.
“It’s very disappointing for us, we were looking forward to this game today and I think we deserve a little more out of the game today – it could have gone either way,” he said.
“In the end I think it’s a lack of concentration from us and that’s a letdown but congratulations to Papua New Guinea. They’ve come this far, they’ve done well and I think it’s good for football in Papua New Guinea.”
Solomon Islands has missed their second chance to reach the grand final stage. The only time they reached the grand final was against Australia.
They will now play New Caledonia for the third and fourth playoff while PNG will take on New Zealand for the grand final.
It was a very entertaining match but a disappointing result for the local team. Many local soccer fans who watched PNG played our boys last night gave credit to the PNG side for their determination in winning the match.
Last night via the social media many soccer fans expressed concern over our style of soccer sayng our team must learn how to play forward by making accurate long range passes. “The team seem to be possessing the ball but most of it are handled carelessly.”
Another fan said, for the 3rd time in this tournament the team got caught in 80th minutes. First against Fiji, then New Zealand and now PNG.
A local soccer official added, Solo needs more tactical improvement, more faster smarter young blood needed. “Poor tactical decisions costs us the game I think.”
Meanwhile another disappointed fan said, although the road to confederation cup ends for the boys it was a very special tournament for them as they played against a more vibrant and motivated side.
“Congratulations PNG and all the best for the grand final. Solomon Islands fans, we accept the loss. Football is still alive and well so let us all be positive and look forward to the future.”
For PNG its history in the making after 43 years of struggle in trying to improve its level of soccer.
There was much celebration last night for the PNG supporters around their country who have watched the match.
Saturday’s final is expected to be a thriller and PNG is hoping to create another history.