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Tupapa bows out with 3-2 win

Friday 23 February 2024 | Written by Supplied | Published in Football, Sports


Tupapa bows out with 3-2 win
Tupapa Maraerenga FC defeated Veitongo FC 3-2 in their final OFC Men’s Champions League – Qualifying match last night in Tonga. Pictured is their opening match with eventual winner Vaivase-Tai FC who defeated Tupapa won 4-0. OFC MEDIA/ 24022240

Tupapa Maraerenga FC pulled off a hard-fought 3-2 victory at the OFC Men’s Champions League – Qualifying to deny Veitongo FC a qualification spot.

The win was not enough to earn Rarotonga qualification after Vaivase-Tai FC thumped Vaiala Tonga SC 14-0 to earn their first ever OFC Men’s Champions League spot in Nuku'alofa, Tonga, yesterday.

The opening exchanges of the match between Tupapa and Veitongo FC were played at a frantic pace with both sides looking to play expansive football and Veitongo especially keen to make a fast start in their bid to rack up the goals.

The seventh minute delivered the first chance. Tupapa Maraerenga captain Grover Harmon took aim from a long way out and his shot had Veitongo goalkeeper Semisi Otukolo scrambling, just managing to get his fingertips to the ball.

Tupapa were forced into an early substitution after a key figure in the midfield, Paavo Mustonen, picked up an injury in the 16th minute.

Chances had been few and far between with neither team able to create clear cut opportunities. In the 24th minute Veitongo secured the crucial breakthrough. A loose ball bounced out to in-form forward Elias Kendler on the top of the box, whose shot took a deflection off a Tupapa player and went into the back of the net.

The crowd erupted and finally Veitongo had some wind in their sails. Up one-nil they went chasing for more goals and it seemed only a matter of time before they found another, with the team full of energy.

The host side may have dominated most of the first-half, but Tupapa Maraerenga kept fighting and were rewarded with a penalty kick after Ngametua Tuakana was brought down in the area after a clumsy challenge.

Irishman Dylan Connelly stepped up to expertly dispatch the ball into the bottom corner of the net, leaving the match one-all heading into the final minutes of the first period.

Minutes later the action turned towards the other goal. Kendler drilled a low shot from outside the box only for the ball to hit the post and deny Veitongo a second heading into the break.

Tension was high heading into the second-half for Veitongo who needed six goals to reach the OFC Men’s Champions League. While they dominated possession, they couldn’t turn it into goals, which would prove to be their undoing.

In the 57th minute, Tupapa turned a rare chance in Veitongo’s half into a goal. After Grover Harmon’s header hit the crossbar, Dylan Connelly cleaned up the scraps, poking it home to give the Cook Island men a 2-1 advantage.

Tupapa then quickly doubled their lead six minutes later with a glorious strike from about 35 yards out by Akiona Tairi – stretching the lead to two goals and effectively killing off any hope Veitongo had of booking a place in Tahiti in May.

With only pride left to play for, Veitongo FC refused to give in. Tuia Falepapalangi put the ball on a plate for Elias Kendler to score his second and ensure a tight finish to the final match of the tournament.

The final blot on Veitongo’s copy book was a late red card for Opesi Tuifangaloka, picking up a second yellow in the dying seconds.

With the final whistle came confirmation for Samoa’s Vaivase-Tai FC that they will be playing Champions League football in Tahiti in May. Reward for their efforts in Nuku’alofa is a spot in Group B, alongside the respective National Playoff winners from Tahiti, Vanuatu and New Caledonia.

  • OFC Media


Tupapa Maraerenga FC: 3 (Dylan CONNOLLY (P) 43′, 57′, Akiona TAIRI 63′)
Veitongo FC: 2 (Elias KENDLER 24′, 70′). HT: 1-1