In a tense affair at the CIFA Complex ground in Matavera on Saturday, Tupapa Maraerenga started their champions league campaign with a well-deserved 4-1 win.
Samoa’s Kiwi FC played with nine players for most of the second half after referee Peter Linney gave the marching orders to two of their players for crude tackles. The players protested, claiming the calls made by the New Zealand referee were “soft”.
Tupapa Maraerenga were already up by 3-1 when their opponents were reduced to nine players.
After a slow start, the Rarotonga champions gained momentum when Harlem Simiona scored a superb goal with a diving header from a set piece play orchestrated by midfielder Fauzul Ahmed in the seventh minute.
Minutes later, Grover Harmon doubled the advantage with an absolute peach of a strike from the 18 yard box which caught the Kiwi FC defenders napping.
Kiwi FC managed to pull one back in the 22nd minute from a spot kick when defender Federico Diaz sent the ball right in the middle, beating the Tupapa Maraerenga goalkeeper Tahiri Elikana.
With momentum on their side and the support of the home crowd, Tupapa Maraerenga extended their lead to 3-1 from another set piece play which found an unmarked Tyrell Barringer-Tahiri, who slammed the ball past a hapless Kiwi FC stopper Eti Fatu.
The intensity of the match went up a level in the second spell as Kiwi FC fought tooth and nail to find the equalisers.
After losing two players to red card, the Samoans were left backpedaling as Tupapa Maraerenga took control of the match and sealed the win with their fourth goal in the 70th minute. The goal came from a spot kick which was taken by Ben Mata.
Tupapa Maraerenga created more chances but were unlucky to extend their lead. Kiwi FC also had a couple of decent opportunities but lacked in execution.
In the other match, Tonga’s Lotoha’apai United FC thumped Pago Youth of American Samoa 5-1.
Tupapa Maraerenga will face Lotoha’apai United FC at 5.30pm while Pago Youth FC will play Kiwi FC at 2:30pm tomorrow.