1 Sep 2015

Sport: Cook Islands and Samoa make winning start to football qualifiers

12:21 pm on 1 September 2015

Cook Islands and Samoa made a winning start to the first stage of Oceania Football World Cup qualifying.

Striker Taylor Saghabi broke the deadlock in the 38th minute and added two more goals after halftime to seal his hat-trick, and the Cook Islands first ever World Cup qualifying win.

Cook Islands striker Taylor Saghabi celebrates a goal.

Cook Islands striker Taylor Saghabi celebrates a goal. Photo: Oceania Football

Drew Sherman says his players took some time to get into the game.

"We were going into the unknown. Our boys were extremely nervous to begin with at the start and it showed. It probably took us until after half-time to start playing the football that we know we can. When that did happen and when Tonga tired we sort of ran out comfortable victors in the end but dealing with the nerves and dealing with the direct play we expected sort of put us on the back foot but the boys did really well, kept themselves together, persevered and in the end we came through".

Tonga's Techincal Advisor Kilifi Ueli says the home side was guilty of going away from their pre-match tactics.

"In the second half they started to collapse - they didn't stick to the game-plan [from] the coach and the Cooks continued on scoring and that's the end result that we get is 3-0. We're trying out best to sort out our football problems, especially the focus and the concentration of our boys so they're going to stick to our game-plan".

In the later match, Samoa raced to a 3-0 lead inside the opening half-hour and looked on course for an emphatic victory.

Samoa celebrates a goal.

Samoa celebrates a goal. Photo: Oceania Football

American Samoa pulled a goal back seven minutes before the break to stay in contention before the game took another twist when Samoa's Lapalapa Toni was sent off shortly after halftime.

Demetrius Beauchamp set up a tense finish with his second strike four minutes from full-time but Samoa managed to hold on for a 3-2 result.

American Samoa coach Larry Manao says he saw plenty of good in their performance.

"This was one of the first times we've ever scored on Samoa so we got two goals, good build-up play for our two goals - one in the first half and then one in the second. Because of those two goals and the work-rate I thought those were positives as well. Minus the first fifteen minutes I think we played a fairly good game, and we definitely improved over the match, but not the result I was hoping for".

The second round of round-robin matches is tomorrow with Cook Islands up against Samoaand with American Samoa to face Tonga.