Solomon mamula downs Tahiti but surrenders World Championship berth
The victory ensures the Solomon Islands stay within touching distance of the front runners, but it has an unrealistic chance of qualifying for the World Championship in Canada later this year, as the boys only have remaining game to play later today against bottom-of-the-ladder holder, Samoa. They will head home early this week.
Solomon Islands grabbed the first goal when Rande latched onto a superb through ball from Judd Molea before finishing clinically from a difficult angle. Tahiti keeper Alan Uparu - who had one of his best games at the tournament to date - had little chance. Tony Otini made the game safe for Solomon Islands with a goal in the 66th minute. Roihau Degage pulled one back for Tahiti when he eluded the offside trap before driving home a good finish from ten yards past Leon Lekezoto in the 78th minute setting up a nervous finish for the Solomon Islands.
In other games on Saturday, New Caledonia ensured its World Cup dream is alive following an emphatic come from behind 3-1 win over Vanuatu. But the much talked about game of the day was between front runners Fiji and New Zealand which ended in a 3-2 win in favour of the Kiwis. The match was marred with red cards, injuries, penalties, an angry crowd and a police escort for the New Zealand team and embattled referee Nelson Sogo of the Solomon Islands as the top of the table clash descended into controversy on Match Day Five.
It is understood, Solomon referee Nelson Sogo struggled to maintain any semblance of order as both teams lost control throughout a volatile match. In a video footage of the game being shown on the Fiji Television, Fiji coach Juan Carlos Buzzetti was clearly angry as he shouted at the camera and those who are trying to contain his emotions after the game. The footage also showed elbowings and on the field scuffles as the game intensifies. This has resulted in an investigation being instigated by the OFC to determine the issues surrounding the Fiji coach's actions as well as that of the Solomon referee, Nelson Sogo. The decision is expected to be known today as confirmed by OFC to Fiji Television yesterday.
After match day 5, Solomon Islands now have 8 points with only one game remaining. New Caledonia and Fiji are both on 9 points with two games to play. New Zealand are currently the front runners with two remaining games as well against Vanuatu and New Caledonia.