Marist FC have secured passage to the OFC Champions League 2018 quarter finals from Group D after an entertaining match at Lawson Tama Stadium this afternoon.
With Magenta suffering a heavy loss at the hands of Team Wellington, Marist needed only to beat Lupe Ole Soaga to secure their tickets to the quarter final.
However their opponents had no intention of giving them a free pass.
Marist set a quick-tempo from the outset, heaping the pressure on Lupe’s defences forcing some wonderful saves from goalkeeper Faalavelave Matagi.
However Lupe’s strong desire to go home with their heads held high made things mighty tough for the home side which resulted in lot of frustration. With time ticking down in the first half
Mathias Iani had the ball in the back of the net in the 43rd minute, only to have it ruled out for offside.
However three minutes later he made sure he did everything right, nailing the ball for his first OFC Champions League goal to give his side the lead going into the second half.
As the final 45 minutes got underway, Lupe upped the pressure and it paid off when they forced an error from Marist in their own area. A handball from captain Henry Fa’arodo as he tried to control the ball led to the referee pointing to the spot, where Lapalapa Toni smashed in the equaliser for his side.
Marist upped the tempo and made frequent attacks but they kept bring broken down as they tried to get the final shot off. However ten minutes after Toni’s equaliser and 22-year-old Iani had his brace. The third and final goal came from a stunning free kick struck by Atkin Kaua that just floated inside the far post.
Marist’s 3-1 win seeing them through to the OFC Champions League quarter finals for the first time in the club’s history as the Group D runners-up.
Marist coach Jerry Allen was pleased that his side was finally able to heed his demand for goals.
“We knew that this one would be tough, the easier the game you play, the harder it will be,” Allen said.
“We wanted to get the three points. The boys were looking forward to this game and we wanted to win, we wanted to go through.”
Allen said for Iani to finally find the back of the net in his third match was a good thing for the burgeoning young talent.
“I think when he came here today, he wants to score. I keep reminding him he needs to score for us, if he scores we win. And he stepped up today, he scored for us and we won.”
Three losses from three games was obviously not the course Paul Ualisi had hoped to take coming into the competition, but said he was proud of the fight they put up against Marist.
“First of all, congratulations to Marist for making the second level. It was a really good game.
“I was really proud of my boys today, especially the first half. The countered, they went 1v1, but we just weren’t able to get through.
“It’s really hard for the supporters in Samoa. It’s not really easy to come here and go back with nothing, so that’s why the boys stepped up.
“We’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to compete and next time we’ll come back and fight again.”