Samoa impress in opening victory over Tonga

Samoa have opened their OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier campaign with a convincing victory over Tonga at The Trusts Arena in Auckland.

Two second-half goals in as many minutes set up Ryan Stewart’s side in a match that dominated from start to finish, giving Tonga little opportunity throughout the 90 minutes.

There was strong local support for both sides as Samoa started brightly, controlling possession deep in Tongan territory, their opponents happy to sit back and try to exploit any space on the counter.

Just under half an hour in and Tongan goalkeeper Nimilote Moala was called into action, producing a strong save to deny Greg Siamoa after the forward had been played in on the right-hand side channel.

Moala was called into action again later in the half, again being tested by Siamoa – this time from just outside the area. The ‘keeper sprang to his right to divert the Number 10’s effort wide, with the rebound disallowed for offside.

Minutes later and it was the turn of Samoa’s Kyah Cahill to sting the palms of Moala. The stopper made himself big to deny Cahill, who had been played through by Siamoa.

The second half saw an uptick in the energy and intent from Samoa and within 10 minutes of the restart they finally found their much-deserved lead. The combination of Siamoa and Cahill once again providing fruitful, as the former crossed for the latter to side-foot home from within 6 yards.

Only moments after the restart and the lead was doubled. Siamoa breached a high Tongan defensive line, drawing the goalkeeper and calmly slotting the ball past Moala to make it 2-0.

Tonga almost found an immediate avenue back into the match when Sione Veamatahau was given acres of space on the right-hand side of the box but his fierce effort rattled back off the angle of bar and post.

The margin would surely have been greater if not for the excellent performance in goal from Moala. The impressive ‘keeper denied Siamoa his second from distance with a fantastic save.

Moala could do nothing to deny Siamoa with just under ten minutes remaining, however. A short free-kick found the forward on the edge of the area and his left-footed shot took a wicked deflection – wrong-footing the goalkeeper and nestling in the goal.

Despite their endeavour and physicality in the tackle, Tonga struggled to create anything of note in the final stages. A number of changes from both sides taking some of the sting out of proceedings.

Next up for Samoa is a match-up with the Solomon Islands, knowing another victory will all but guarantee their place in the semi-final. Tonga will look to rebound against Vanuatu in their next game.