Solomon Islands national U-16 side have defeated New Zealand 5-0 for the first time after 25 years when they last beaten the junior All Whites at Lawson Tama Stadium.
The hosts last home victory over New Zealand was a 2-1 win in the semi-final of the OFC U-17 Championship in 1993.
Relentless high pressing from the young lads were a result of the big win yesterday in the OFC U-16 Championship Group A top of the table clash.
Both teams headed into the encounter with opening wins in Group A and their intentions were to go for another win.
The junior All Whites started the match on the front foot as they dominated the early exchanges.
Adan Hillis headed over from a set piece three minutes into the encounter in what proved to be a hilet off for the hosts.
Playing in front of their home fans, Solomon Islands young guns injected their space whenever they won the ball.
Charles Mani missed a good chance 10 minutes into match when he picked the ball off the New Zealand goal keeper only for his effort to hit the side netting.
The defining moment arrived seven minutes later as defender Javin Wae’s header found the back of the net to give the hosts an early lead.
Mani though he had scored a second in the 25th minute but his tap in was called off for an offside.
The Zealanders saw their never say die attitude with some good combination play in the later stages of the first half.
Solomon Islands dual international Raphael Le’ai continues his scoring form with a second for the hosts four minutes from half-time to give his side a 2-0 lead at the break.
The defending champions pressed in the early moments of the second half as the hosts defending their lead.
A well worked set piece saw Le’ai set up captain Leon Kofana for their third goal.
Wonder-kid Le’ai completed his brace with another goal in the 85th minute as he finished from close range.
A minute later Le’ai hit the crossbar and Maxwell Keana followed it up sealing a convincing 5-0 win for the Solomons.
Solomon Islands coach Stanley Waita gave credit to his players for a very important win against a strong New Zealand side.
“It’s a nice win for us, I think it’s a big win. Credit to the boys they have done well as they followed what we told them to do,” the former Solomon Islands international said.
Waita instructed his players before the match to deploy an acting game which was evident throughout the game.
“As I said earlier we have all the advantages in terms of playing on home soil, with the local crowd, and my message for them was we go on and attack.
“We want to go forward, to play positive at all times, we don’t want to sit back so the boys listened and the result came out,” Waita added.
New Zealand coach Jose Figueira agreed it was an exciting encounter and one that his players won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
“I think it will be a game we won’t forget, and just a tremendous learning experience for the boys against a pretty powerful, attacking team that’s pretty relentless,” Figueira said.
“I think for some, obviously this whole trip is a new experience and against opposition like that also, but at the same time it’s putting things into perspective – it’s not over, we’ll have to recover, do our homework and I think take a massive learning experience from this match and hopefully it will kick us on for the rest of the tournament.”
Figueira said one of the most disappointing aspects from his perspective was two of the first three goals coming from set plays.
“We did highlight that’s an area they’ll try to exploit and if we’d just taken one or two of our good three or four chances in the first half it could have been different.
“But I think going into the second half once we had to go for the match the spaces opened up and with the tiredness and conditions a few decision making skills went out the window and a few sloppy passes which allowed the Solomons to counter attack and absolutely, thoroughly deserved win for them.”
Solomon Islands assuredly earn a semi-final spot with six points from two wins while New Zealand and Papua New Guinea still have a chance to claim one of the other semi-final spots on offer in the group.
The final group encounters will be played on Saturday as New Zealand take on Papua New Guinea at 10am followed by Solomon Islands and Vanuatu at 3pm.