Solomon Islands and Cook Islands faced each other today – 17th March – in a World Cup qualifier. It was the return of the Cook Islands team to official matches after 7 years.
For all the circumstances involving the two teams the Solomon Islands were the favorites for the match and they had to show it on the field.
In the first few minutes the Solomon Islands had a hard time breaking through the Cook Islands blockade, tactically very well put together by Alan Taylor who, even with little time to work with the players, managed to leave a very compact defense, Ben Mata who was the captain of the national team had an impressive performance as well as his teammates in defense.
The first goal for Solomon Islands came in the 20th minute when Raphael Le’ai had a rare opportunity in the 1v1, after dribbling around the left side he crossed, Joses Nawo missed the shot, but the ball was left for Atkin Kaua to pick up and make it 1-0 to the Bonitos.
Even with the goal, the Cook Islands team didn’t lose their poise and continued to defend very well. The second goal for the Solomon Islands only came in stoppage time after a fast counterattack caught the Cook Islands defense off guard, Joses Nawo found Micah Lea’alafa who passed to Alvin Hou, who shot straight at Elikana.
Alvin Hou still owes two more chances to score, but ultimately fails. Micah Lea’alafa led the offensive actions very well, retaining the ball well, dribbling, a true maestro.
At the start of the second half Cook Islands even tried to apply some pressure and almost managed to score from a set piece on a free-kick with Taylor Saghabi finishing and the ball being cut off midway into the goal.
In the end the Solomon Islands prevailed but Cook Islands’ performance deserves a great deal of attention. The future of group A is still uncertain as the match between Tahiti and Vanuatu was cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the Vanuatu camp.