Mamulas through to final

The match was as tough as expected and there were moments when local fans who were glued to their TV screens, some missing work for a chance to witness the proceedings, lost hope but the Mamulas held their nerves and came out on top.
Four goals failed to separate the 2 sides at regulation time and an additional 2 at the end of extra time also failed to produce a winner so the match headed to a penalty shootout for a winner to be determined and finally Solomon Islands triumphed scoring 3 over Vanuatu’s 2 to claim the first grand final ticket in the championship.
Coach Noel Wagapu was full of praise for his players but also commended the Vanuatu side for a great performance.
“I am very happy with the win but I am also happy with the performance both teams put on,” he says.
“There was a lot of good football and it could have been anybody’s game. Whenever teams go out that way, I can always sympathise with them because it is very unlucky. But it is a lesson to us all that a team who prepares well should be able to win in the 90 minutes – if it goes to extra time or penalties it is a lot harder to win and becomes a lottery.”
Vanuatu went in front after only 8 minutes after Seda’s fumble handed the opportunity to Didier Kalip who sent the ball past the Mamula goalkeeper. The initial play into the Solomon Islands penalty box came from Silas Frank who crossed the ball in only for Seda to hand it out to Kalip who gladly took the offer.
The Mamulas got their first chance to equalise when Tutizama Tanito was fouled by Vanuatu goalkeeper, Seiloni Iaruel, inside the penalty box and a penalty was awarded. Dennis Ifunaoa stood up for the spot kick but Iaruel was able to read his shot and made a good save to deny the striker who already has 2 penalty goals under his belt in the championship.
Ifunaoa made amends for his mistake midway through the first half when he set Himson Teleda up inside the Vanuatu box and the left-footed flanker turned to draw away Iaureul before slotting the ball home.
Teleda struck again in the 42nd minute with a brilliant individual break turning past 2 defenders before rendering Iaruel helpless with a feint and then sending the ball into the back of the net to give Solomon Islands the lead.
Vanuatu returned with force in the second half and gave the Mamulas a tough time in their own territory but they themselves were kept busy in their own half as the search for the winner came from Solomon Islands.
Vanuatu hopes were rekindled in the 78th minute when Jean Kaltak latched onto a cross from Kalip before beating Seda. Kaltak’s goal was no surprise as he has been one of the top forwards in the competition.
Vanuatu went close in the dying minutes but the Mamulas held on for 2 – 2 score line at full time to take the game into extra time.
Solomon Islands grabbed the lead early in the first half of extra time when Larry Sae capitalised on a moment of confusion between defender Brian Kaltak and Iaurel to put his team 3 – 2 in front.
Vanuatu then had the remaining minutes to fight for an equaliser and this they got in the 115th minute when Kevin Shem reignited Vanuatu’s chances while shocking Solomon Islands fans with a dramatic goal past Seda.
Shem’s free kick did not seem imposing but somehow it found its way into the back of the net to take both sides into the dreaded penalty shootout and this is where Seda found fame as the man who made it happen for Solomon Islands.
The Solomons had the sharp reflexes of Seda to thank for their spot kick success after the custodian beat away both of Vanuatu’s opening penalties, from Willie-Ola Jimmy and Kalip respectively, to give his side the advantage. The Solomons also missed their first effort – a blasted shot from Chris Tafoa which sailed well over the bar – but scored their next three to put the pressure on Vanuatu’s final taker, midfielder Pascal Chabot.
To the horror of his team mates and the joy of the opposition, Chabot did not connect well with his strike and the ball bobbled wide of Seda’s left-hand upright to spark scenes of wild celebration and book the Mamulas a place in Friday’s final.
Vanuatu coach Moise Poida was hit hard by the manner of the loss and feels his side have only themselves to blame for the defensive slip-ups that cost them the match.
“I felt we dominated the game and I think we are a stronger team than the Solomons,” he says.
“Physically, they are bigger but even though we are small I think we are just as good. We played well but missed a lot of opportunities and gave away three goals. We got punished by our own mistakes.
“I think we should have been in the final but we gifted that to the Solomon Islands.”
New Zealand defeated Fiji by 6 goals to nil to qualify from the other semi final. The grand final between Solomon Islands and New Zealand will take on place on Friday, as will the third/fourth playoff between Vanuatu and Fiji.
Story courtesy www.oceaniafootball.com

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