[Source: OFC/ Facebook]
A Javin Wae double from the penalty spot helped Solomon Islands to secure three points in their opening Group B match against Vanuatu at The Trusts Arena in Auckland.
Captain Wae confidently struck the opener from 12 yards after the referee signalled to the spot after a handball following a Solomon Islands corner.
The Solomon Islands were the stronger side for large stretches of the 90 minutes but failed to create as many clear-cut chances as their territorial dominance would have suggested. Aside from Wae’s penalty, Vanuatu goalkeeper Brandon Tankon was largely untested.
The second-half say a marked uptick in intensity and energy from both sides. In fact, it was Vanuatu who came out after the break with purpose – AJ Zacharie going closest with a left-footed effort that whistled just over the bar.
A failure to take their chances seemed likely to be punished as Solomon Islands grew into the second forty-five. Junior Rocky missing a golden chance, hitting the underside of the bar with the goalkeeper stranded following Alfia Aunga’s initial effort had been saved buy Tankon.
Rocky went close again with a header that narrowly cleared the crossbar, before captain Wae saw his headed effort blocked well by Tankon from a tight angle.
Calvin Ohasio saw an effort from the left-hand side of the box flash wide but the midfielder didn’t have to wait long to get on the scoresheet and put the game to bed.
Substitute Norman Winford showed excellent endeavour on the right flank to win the ball and drive into the area. His cross eventually falling to the feet of Ohasio and he made no mistake in smashing the ball into the back of the net to secure the victory for the Solomon Islands.
A third came in stoppage time and again from the penalty spot. A clumsy tackle on Ohasio by substitute Kerol Alex led to another chance for Wae and the captain again converted with aplomb.
Solomon Islands will now face the day’s other winner Samoa in their second group stage match, whilst Vanuatu will look to get off the mark when they take on Tonga later in the week.