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Friday, May 12, 2006

Solomon Connection levels Youngheart Manawatu with Fiji Eagles United

A stunning goal from Nokia Eagles United defender Marika Namaqa has seen YoungHeart Manawatu held to a draw in their 2006 OFC Club Championship opener in Albany.Namaqa rifled a 35-metre, right-footed rocket past cast Manawatu goalkeeper Hayden Englefield to earn the Fijian champions a 2-2 draw at North Harbour Stadium.The point was nothing more than Eagles deserved for their part in the match of the FIFA Club World Cup qualifying tournament to date. Eagles United Marika Namaqa, in white, in action against the Youngheart Manawatu

The Fijians marked themselves as serious title contenders with a physically uncompromising display, particularly in the midfield where Manawatu's Ian Robinson and Adam Cowan bravely put themselves in the thick of action.Apisalome Turuva gave the Fijians an 18th minute lead when he converted from the penalty spot after Manawatu defender Andy Boyens chopped Osea Vakatalesan down on the right hand edge of the box.

Commins Menapi's 39th minute equaliser for Manawatu was fortunate with the striker appearing to handle the ball after Campbell Banks' edge of the box drive was blocked.Manawatu came alive in the second half thanks to their skilful Solomon Islands connection of Menapi, Alick Maemae and Benjamin Totori and went ahead when Totori expertly nestled the ball in the right hand side netting after great lead-up work from All Whites striker Campbell Banks.

But Manawatu coach Colin Tuaa was left ruing several missed half-chances including a pair of first half headers from Boyens that went wide and a Menapi blast that skimmed the near-post three minutes before Namaqa's screamer."It could have been worse based on the way we started...I don't know if it was nerves or what but we just didn't fire in the first half," Tuaa said afterwards."I thought towards the end of the first half we got back into it and scored and then when Benjamin got the second I thought we had it. But we got punished for not taking the three or four good chances we had after that...[Namaqa's goal] was a great strike."

Tafea FC of Vanuatu in action against New Caledonia Champion, AS Magenta at Albany

Manawatu now have their work cut out to top Group B now after Vanuatu's Tafea FC beat New Caledonia's AS Magenta 1-0 with a stoppage time winner from Fedy Vava.Tuaa will be keen to avoid second spot as that is likely to earn a semifinal against New Zealand Football Championship winners Auckland City."We've got to be pleased we got something out of tonight because at least we're on the board...that's important in the first game," Tuaa said.Both New Zealand teams are in action tomorrow with Auckland facing Marist FC (Solomon Islands) at 2.45pm before Manawatu meet AS Magenta at 5pm. Today is a rest day for all clubs.

News source: http://www.oceaniafootball.com

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