The Samoa representatives Lupe o le Soaga in the OFC Champions League 2020 started well their campaign with a win against the Tongan side Veitongo in the preliminary stage. As expected, Lupe was the favourite side for the contest and they started very strong the match, almost scoring through a shot of Lapalapa Toni that was well defended by goalkeeper Sinilau Taufa.
The first half was completely dominated by Lupe o le Soaga – the game controled by the experienced defender Andrew Setefano and his partner in defense Ritchievoy Ueligitone. Despite the dominance, the goalkeeper Sinilau Taufa was doing great and managing to stop the most important actions of the oposition side.
The dominance by the Samoans was converted into goal when the English striker Matthew Chant headed the ball past Taufa to find the nets after a pinball in a corner. Chant scored the first for Lupe to give them the relief to finally be up in the scoreline.
Just four minutes later from Chant first goal, Lupe managed to score another: after a corner, Tauati Tanoai gets the rebound and finds Suivai Ataga free in the box to just tap the ball to the nets of Sinilau Taufa. The Samoans scored their second.
Veitongo seemed very fragile through the air and this was used very well by Lupe as both of their goals came from corners. The Tongan side did not create any danger for the oposition goalkeeper in the first half – the key man Hemaloto Polovili was well marked and could not help his team.
The second half was totally different history; for those who expected a massive win by the Samoan champions, Veitongo dominated the actions in the final 45 minutes and they had deserved a better result than they had. The first real danger for Lupe happened in the 61th minute of play when the dangerous Pita Uhatahi passed Tauati Tanoai brilliantly and brought down by Ritchievoy Ueligitone inside the penalty area – the referee awarded a penalty kick to the Tongan side. The talented Vai Lutu took the ball, but the penalty was saved by the New Zealand goalkeeper Zane Green to keep the scoreline 2-0 in favour of Lupe o le Soaga.
The Tongans kept pushing forward to get a goal; the fast Pita Uhatahi was a danger in the left side, always looking to connect with Hemaloto Polovili and Tupou Uhatahi upfront. In one of those opportunities Polovili was brought down just close the penalty box by Lawrie Letutusa. The free-kick was taken by number 10 that finished it wide, close to the post of Green.
Chant created a good opportunity for Letutusa to score the third for Lupe in a counter-attack move, but the ball was brilliantly saved by Sinilau Taufa. The 17-year old Michael Tumua Leo had a chance to seal his team victory minutes later Letutusa opportunity, but the Tongan defense managed to put bodies in way to prevent a third goal.
The match finished with a 2-0 victory for the Samoans. Lupe was certainly expecting a win over Veitongo, but they really should have done better – their performance was not as good as expected and in various occasions they suffered a real threat from the brave Tongans.
The competition will resume in the next Tuesday (28th Jan) when the Cook Islanders of Tupapa Maraerenga debut in the competition against Lupe o le Soaga. Veitongo will be back to the pitch next 31th, January to face the same Cook Islands side Tupapa Maraerenga to finish the preliminary stage of 2020 OFC Champions League.