The Cook Islands club champions Puaikura FC have qualified for the OFC Champions League main draw in March after securing a third win over Utulei Youth FC on Day 3 of the OFC Qualifiers in Tonga.
History was made as the competition leaders went on to win their final match 3-1 against American Samoans yesterday afternoon at Loto-Tonga Soka Centre.
But it wasn’t a walk in the park for Puaikura FC who despite holding extensive possession of the ball in the first half could not score until the 46th minute of additional time when Pekay Edwards knocked the ball into goal after a messy play in the Utulei Youth box.
In the second spell the Rarotongan champions doubled their efforts in the 55th minute when Edwards went on to score his second goal of the match.
But Utulei fought back and were rewarded with their first goal in the 82nd minute after catching a Puaikura defender off guard to take the score up to 2-1.
Celebrations were short-lived however for Utulei as Puaikura FC countered in quick fashion to take the score up to 3-1 and win the match through Maro Bonsu-Maro who chased a through ball and placed it to the left off the goal out of the Utulei keeper’s reach.
The result sealed Puaikura’s top spot in the competition and will see them head to the group stages in Kone, New Caledonia up against the likes of Team Wellington, Ba and Hienghene Sports in Group B division.
It is the first time a club champion from the Cook Islands has ever qualified through to the next stage of the OFC Champions League tournament.
Cook Islands Football Association is proud of the efforts displayed by Puaikura FC and would like to congratulate the team on their qualification.