Hosts Cook Islands will have their work cut out if they want to fulfill their quest of booking their place at the next stage of the OFC U-19 Championship Qualifier later this year in Tahiti, following a disappointing defeat to a resurgent Tongan side.
Backed by a vocal local crowd, Cook Islands started the second match of the opening day with plenty of promise, putting Tonga under a lot of pressure inside the opening 15 minutes.
But after weathering the storm the visitors took the lead in the 17th minute as Tevita Kau finished off a swift counter attacking move.
Things got worse for the hosts who found themselves three goals down 20 minutes later, after giving away two penalties, slotted home by Mohammad Rajani.
Despite the three-goal gap the Cook Islanders fought bravely in the second half before their fate was sealed with a red Grafton Potoru.
Following their well deserved win Tongan Head Coach Soane Malia couldn’t hide his delight.
“Our paly in the first half was to protect our defense and when we got our opportunities on the counter we try to score.
We knew that that Cook Islands always take the lead in these matches before, but we have a vision we have a goal, we work together and we’ve been looking better throughout our preparations and we believe in what we are doing” – he said after the match.
Cook Island Head Coach Alan Taylor rued his side’s first half mistakes but he also heaped praise on his players for their effort.
“Disappointing, after 30 minutes you give away two penalties and a silly goal and it’s hard to come back but the effort was good the commitment was great. We didn’t quite manage to get that first goal, if we got that first goal I think we could have got more than one, but we couldn’t quite break it down in the first half.
I can’t fault them for their effort, down to ten men and they were still putting their bodies on the line” -Taylor said accidently