Under strength Vanuatu edged by Solomons

PORT VILA: The visiting Solomon Islands national team came back from a 0-1 half-time deficit to upset Vanuatu 2-1, in a friendly international in Port Vila.

The two sides face off again today with Vanuatu determined to redress last Saturday's result which clearly exposed their lack of fitness compared to the slick Solomons outfit prepared by English coach Alan Gillett.

Both teams are using the two match series as preparation for the upcoming Stage 1 OFC Nations Cup-World Cup qualifying tournaments next month. Vanuatu is pooled in group 2 hosted in Samoa while Solomon Islands hosts a tough pool containing New Caledonia and Tahiti.

In front of a healthy crowd of just over 4,000 at Port Vila's Korman Stadium, the attacking prowess of the Solomon Islands team stunned the under strength home team missing their experienced star forwards Richard Iwai and Etienne Mermer, now based in Australia. While rising star Jean Maleb was forced to sit out the match to carry out a suspension from the Olympic qualifiers in January. Maleb returns to the side today and will no doubt bolster the Vanuatu scoring potential with the Lorry Thompsen-Pita Maki combination not effective against the Solomons on Saturday. Tall central defender Geoffrey Gete is also set for a call up after appearing for Vanuatu at the Olympic qualifiers.

Despite the result, the Vanuatu fans were appreciative of the skill and entertainment Melanesian style, put on by both sides. The four pronged strike force of Commins Menapi, Batram Suri, youngster Alick Maemae and Henry Fa'arodo playing behind them in an attacking midfield role gave the Vanuatu defence nightmares in the opening half creating four clear chances that went begging. Only the heroics of Vanuatu captain and goalkeeper David Chilia and sweeper Bibi Lexa Bule kept the Vanuatu goal from being breached.

Surprisingly, it was Vanuatu who got the early lead in the 41st minute. Midfield dynamo Seimata Chilia, who had a superb all round game containing Fa'arodo, caught Solomon Islands keeper Severino Aefi off his line blasting in a long range shot from in front of the centre circle to score past the flat footed Aefi.

But after the break Solomon Islands superior fitness and preparation began to tell as the tiring Vanuatu side were further exposed by the jinking runs from Solomons outstanding attacking quartet with Maemae dazzling the crowd and showing at only 17 years of age, he is definitely a player to watch in the future and almost certain to attract overseas clubs in due time.

Former Sydney United striker Commins Menapi struck the equalizer in the 52nd minute connecting with a excellent cross into the box which he duly deflected into the goal past Chilia who had no chance at that close range. Menapi's strength created his second goal twenty minutes later when he brushed off experienced Vanuatu defender Graham Demas to slot in Solomons second goal.

Vanuatu tried to peg back the lead but clearly missed their experienced strikers. Of the game's standout players Maemae, Suri and right back Nelson Saie had sensational games, while for Vanuatu, David Chilia was commanding in goal with Bibi in front of him which kept the score respectable after thwarting wave after wave of Solomons attacks. Seimata Chilia was also a standout commanding the midfield with his distribution and vision. - VFF Media Officer, Moses Stevens

Full Time: Vanuatu 1 (Seimata Chillia 41')
Solomon Islands 2 (Commins Menapi 52', 71').

Vanuatu; Chilia David
Tabe Manley Junior
Bibi Lexa Bule
Lauru Wilkins Simon
Demas Graham
Chilia Seimata
Haitong Maki Gerard
Thompsen Lorry
Maki Pita David
Alick Daniel Koko
Qorig Alphonse Welin
Vava Fedy
Silas Ali Silas
Waiwai Warren Roger
Tom Tomake Philip
Mahe Rick Tchamako
Lini Samson Frederech

Cautions: Alick Daniel Koko (yellow)

Solomons: Leslie Leo
Mahlon Houkaraua
Nelson Saie
Alec Maemae
Paul Kakai Jnr
Batram Suri
Commins Menapi
Stanley Waita
Gideon Omokirio
Henry Fa'arodo
Severino Aefi
Lucian Sikua'ae
Philip Kaukui
Joel Konofilia
Robert Firigeni
George Lui
Moses Toata
Martin Ruhasia


Referee - Lencie Fred
1st Assistant - Mahit Chillia
2nd Assistant - Atanas Rakrak
4th Official - Ron Wilbur
Referee Inspector - Yves Taga


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