The home side thrashed the Tongan champion team 4-1 at the CIFA Complex in Matavera on Tuesday.
Cheered on by their vocal home support Tupapa Maraerenga wasted no time to grab the lead in their top-of-the-table clash as Jared Colligan latched on to a cross inside the box before netting in the opening minute.
Knowing a win would all but secure a spot in the group stage, the hosts kept probing the Tongans’ defence and they were soon rewarded with a penalty that was coolly put away by Ben Mata in the 7th minute.
Despite Tupapa’s relentless dominance the impressive Lotoha’apai keeper Semisi Otukolo played a huge role in keeping the hosts at bay for the remainder of the half before the Tongan champions produced a slick passing move to make it 2-1 against the run of the play two minutes before the break.
A far more evenly contested affair developed in the second half with chances coming thick and fast at both ends before Grover Harmon restored the hosts’ two goal cushion in the 59th minute and Ben Mata put the result beyond any doubt four minutes later.
Tupapa coach, Delaney Yaqona had positive things to say stating: “We are definitely very happy and all hats off to Lotoha’apai, they came out here and they gave us a good game.
“We had a really good start and things were flowing from there but all credit to them as they came back and stuck into us and we had to pick our game up and do things a bit better to win in the end.”
Opposition coach Lui Muavesi summed up his side’s performance stating the two early goals led to their downfall.
“I’m still happy with the performance even though we conceded two goals in the first ten minutes, it was a slow start and we have to accept what the result is.”
Meanwhile Kiwi FC revived their chances at qualifying with a win, in a close encounter with Pago Youth FC.
Desperate to amend their disappointing performance against Tupapa in the opening round, Kiwi FC have signaled their intent from the outset by controlling both ball and territorial possession.
Their dominance paid dividends in the 20th-minute courtesy of the lively Ken Kerewi, but Samoan celebrations were cut short by Palauni Tapusoa who leveled the scores with Pago Youth’s first meaningful attack only a minute later.
The equaliser seemed to have spurred Kiwi FC on and the Samoan champions were back in front in the 29th minute thanks to Paul Scanlan’s penalty before Kitona Nauer was on target to open up a two-goal cushion for his side five minutes later.
Following their 5-1 defeat to Lotoha’apai United on the opening match day, Pago Youth were also playing for their survival, and they showed plenty of passion and pride to get back into the game through another clinical finish from Tapusoa to end a thrilling first half.
After the break both sides threw caution to the wind in their search for a knock-out blow as chances kept coming in a surprisingly open encounter given the high stakes.
With only 10 minutes to go the game was on a knife-edge as the impressive Palauni Tapusoa completed his hat-trick to make it 3-all and set up a grandstand finish.
It was no surprise the absorbing contest had one more sting in the tale with the experienced Paul Scanlan delivering the decisive moment by slotting home to notch up his second goal of the match five minutes later.
Kiwi FC Coach Martin Tamasese admitted his side was made to work hard to stay alive in the competition.
“It was a tough game for us, the American Samoans knew our style of play and it was tough, but a win is a win and we are happy with what we’ve got today.
“We were expecting a hard match like this and we had to try really hard but we knew we were fast and fit, but still it didn’t always work our way,” Tamesese said.
His Pago Youth counterpart Rambo Tapui was delighted with his players’ effort despite the defeat.
“It was entertaining, when we clash with Samoa it’s like a war so we came out here to try to win this game, we weren’t playing for a draw.
“In the second half of last game when we’ve played in the last 20 minutes we didn’t have the fitness but in the last few days we worked on that and I told the boys that we will play our brothers from Samoa.”
With Tupapa Maraerenga having booked their place in the next stage, the last spot will be determined tomorrow between Kiwi FC and Lotoha’apai who will face off at 2.30pm.
The last game of the qualifiers will be between Tupapa Maraerenga FC and Pago Youth FC at 5.30pm at the CIFA Complex.