Cook Islands wins final match

Cook Islands and American Samoa were both eager to get the victory in order
to end their campaigns on a high note.

Cook Islands looked positive from the outset with James Nand causing plenty
of headaches for the American Samoa defenders during the early exchanges.
The hosts’ attacking endeavours were finally rewarded in the 37th minute courtesy of Teokotai Paio.

Four minutes after the break the result looked beyond any doubt as Cook
Islands won and converted a penalty through Conroy Tiputoa following a
handball inside the American Samoa box.

However, to their credit the young America Samoans weren’t ready to lie down
and they grabbed a goal back thanks to Roy Ledoux just two minutes later.

Desperate to repay their loyal fans in the stands the hosts regrouped after the
goal to shore up their backline and hold out their opponents for a deserved 2-1
win to the delight of coach Alan Taylor.

“I thought we were very good in the first half and should have scored more
than one goal, the second half got scrappy because we made two
substitutions for injuries and guys played out of position but I thought overall
the effort was good.”

Taylor says he is happy with his side’s overall performance throughout the
tournament and it was important for his players to finally be rewarded for their
efforts.

“There was nothing much in the first two games and we had to get a win so
the boys could believe that they can win by playing the right way through
passing football and their confidence going forward will be higher because of
that.

“It was important for the boys to feel the experience of winning”, the Cook
islands coach said.

Despite another defeat his American Samoa counterpart Tunoa Lui also
heaped praise on his players.

“Unfortunately again today, Cook Islands capitalised on our mistakes and that
cost us the game, but it was a well contested game and we played well and I
take my hats off to the boys.

“The boys make mistake but they keep on fighting, we came here to win but
unfortunately we didn’t.”

Lui insists the future looks bright for football in American Samoa.

“Something to take note of is American Samoa will not just defend, you saw
throughout the three games we kept on attacking.

“It’s also a very good opportunity for our seven players who will be in Tonga
for the U-17, so this is a good stepping stone to them for the next tournament”,
the American Samoa coach said.

A slice of Oceania football history was created as Tonga and
Samoa fought out a tense 1-all draw on the final Match Day of the
2018 OFC U-19 Championship Qualifier tournament.

When New Zealand referee Cory Mills blew his whistle for full time
emotional scenes have unfolded with Tongan players and officials
marking a significant milestone in their football history.

There is nothing surprising about this Tongan team’s success especially
since coach Soane Mailangi insisted from the outset that his side had a
clear vision and determination to create history by becoming the first
ever national team from the proud Pacific nation to win a Qualifier
tournament.

By delivering on his promise the U-19 Tonga team will travel to Tahiti in
August to compete in their maiden OFC U-19 Championship
tournament.

OFC MEDIA

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