Kicking off proceedings against Cook Islands at the Loto-Tonga Soka Centre in Nuku’alofa, Tonga could thank the cross bar that saved them from falling behind in the third minute.
The Cook Islands were awarded a penalty in the 38th minute but Tonga’s goalkeeper ensured that the two sides went into the break on level terms by guessing right to deny Thane Bale from the spot.
The Tongans kicked off second half and thought they took a deserved lead when a low shot from right of the box by Po’oi got Inia off his guard to bring the score up to 1-0 in the 50th minute.
With the game opening up there were chances at both ends, with Inia keeping out Polovili’s effort before Dwayne Tiputoa forced a great diving save from Tonga’s goalkeeper.
Under the pressure to counteract Tonga’s goal, the Cook Islands kept pressing high and with a crucial substitution they were rewarded in the 77th minute when incoming Conroy Tiputoa passed the keeper with a low shot inside the box.
Cook Islands coach Tuka Tisam believed it was an equally contested match between two even sides and that the draw was a fair result.
“The Tongans were very physical and organised, they took the lead but my boys worked really hard to get back into the game.” he said.
“We will take the draw.”
In the second match Samoa thumped American Samoa five goals to nil.
The Cook Islands will next face hot favourites Samoa on Thursday 23 June at 4pm Cook Islands time.
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