Group A: Match 1 - Solomon Islands beat PNG 4-2

SYDNEY: The Solomon Islands opened Group A proceedings with a rough, but entertaining 4-2 victory over Melanesian rivals Papua New Guinea at Marconi Stadium last night.

Two goals from substitute Jerry Sam and one a piece to Alick Maemae and Henry Fa'arodo was enough to ensure a first up victory for the flamboyant men in blue.

Having twice fought back to be within a goal of an equaliser, the Papua New Guinea players lacked the clinical prowess up front that was needed to overcome their opponents.

The Solomons had the better of the first stanza, thanks mainly to their superior poise in attack and their awareness on and off the ball. Central midfield pairing Vivian Wickham and Clifford Huta were a constant threat to the Papua New Guinean back three, with Maemae looking sharp up front.

After steady and constant pressure in the opening quarter, Maemae opened the scoring after a tenacious run from right back Dick Ngota. The Koloale marksman coolly slotted home after getting behind the PNG defense to give the Solomons the lead going into the break.

The Papua New Guinea team looked at their best when the ball was with captain and midfield general Chiquie Posman and Brisbane based striker Alex Davani.

However, apart from a flurry of shots from Davani and his strike partner Ravu Habuka, the Solomons goal remained largely unthreatened for most of the half.

The second half exploded into life when substitute Jerry Sam doubled the Solomons lead just minutes after the restart. The goal came after a clever nod on from Maemae that left Sam with a simple one on one chance, from which he made no mistake.

Having assumed control of the game, the Solomons then threw their opponents a lifeline after a horrendous goalkeeping error. Kossa custodian Jeffrey Aruhe spilled an ambitious cross from PNG substitute Maurie Wasi into his own net to reduce the deficit to just one.

But within seconds, Solomon Islands poster boy Fa'arodo, who had been well contained by the PNG back three for the majority of the match, restored the two goal cushion with a well taken header.

Fa'arodo's goal looked to be the killer blow, but the Papua New Guinean's gave themselves a fighting chance when Habuka headed home a cross from Addyca Maeta.

But, as had happened earlier in the half, Papua New Guinea surrendered their ascendancy by conceding a goal almost immediately after the restart.

Sam knocked in his second for the night after latching on to a low cross from Fa'arodo that effectively put the game beyond doubt.

Solomons coach Matai Vave would have left Marconi Stadium satisfied with his team's performance, but also realizing that his team has a mountain to climb when it faces Australia in six days time. They play Fiji next in a tough second round match on Friday, 16 January.

Papua New Guinea showed glimpses of the form that has seen them become a rising force in Oceania, but coach Robert Popat would have been disappointed in what looked a tired performance from his charges. They will need to step up another level when they face Australia in their second round match on Friday. - By Benjamin Coonan

Match 1: Papua New Guinea vs Solomon Islands / Statistical Review
Full-time score: 2-4 (Solomon Is)
Half-time score: 0-1 (Solomon Is)

Date/Time: Wednesday, 14 January - 5:00pm (AEST)

PNG - (17) Mauri Wasi 64', (5) Ravu Hambuka 80
Solomon Is - (7) Alick Maemae 35', (6) Jerry Sam 63', 83', (18) Henry Fa'arodo 65

Cautions: PNG - (4) Ravu Habuka 81
Solomon Is - (18) Henry Fa'arodo 69'; (8) Vivian Wickham 78';
Expulsions: none

Weather: Overcast, mild 21 degrees, some light rain
Crowd attendance: 2095

Match Officials:
Referee: Charles Ariiotima (Tahiti)
Assistant Referee 1: Michel Angot (Tahiti)
Assistant Referee 2: Michael Mourau (Cook Islands)
Fourth Official: Lencie Fred (Vanuatu)

Match Commissioner: `Ahongalu Fusimalohi (Tonga)
Referee Inspector: Barry Such (Australia)

Team Line-ups (& Substitutes)

4. Ravu Habuka
5. Brian Tuhiana
6. Alexander Davani (-57')
7. Sovera Guti
8. Abraham Enoch (-81')
10. Nathaniel Lepani
13. Russell Inai
16. Kialou Porou
20. Richard Lapan
21. Chique Posman
22. Ricky Mesak
1. Ludwig Bai
2. Elijah Sigamata
9. Richard Sios
18. Eric Komeng
12. Adrian Komu
19. Selan Lelai (+81')
14. Armstrong Peka
15. Nathaniel Pomat
17. Maurie Wasi (+57')

Coach: Robert Popat

1. Jeffrey Aruhe (GK)
3. Phillip Boe
4. Dick Ngota
5. George Suri
7. Alick Maemae
8. Vivian Wickham
13. Clifford Huta (-50')
15. Marshall Hiro (-78')
16. Lency Saeni
17. Addyca Maeta
18. Henry Fa'arodo
2. Tome Faisi
6. Jerry Sam (+50')
9. Simon Sau
10. Michael Misitana (+78')
11. Kidston Billy Olomani
12. George Abba
14. Benjamin Mela
19. Jack Wasi
20. Felix Ray Jr

Coach: Matai Vave


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