Samoan outfit Kiwi FC and their Pacific cousins Pago Youth both needed victory to stay in the hunt for one of the two remaining qualifying spots up for grabs as they lined up to face each other in the opening encounter on Match Day 2 of the tournament.
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 ten 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.
“This competition really talked to their brain and the heart, I’m not sure where the fitness came from but thanks God he gave it to us,” the Pago Youth coach added.
Tapui also heaped praise on hat-trick hero Palauni Tapusoa who left the team straight after the match to rush back to American Samoa and stay by his ailing father’s bedside.
“One of our brothers going back tonight, his dad is in Intensive Care Unit, he scored a hat-trick today so I think his dad was here playing with him, so everything was about him today,” Tapui said.
Kiwi FC is now facing a winner takes all clash with Lotoha’apai United on the third and final match day if they want to secure the last available place on offer at the next stage of the region’s premier club football competition.
The match will be played on Saturday at 2:15pm, and will be live streamed online at mycujoo.