An injury time winner from Albert Bell has seen Samoa defeat Cook Islands 3-2 and take a major stride towards qualification for Round Two of Oceania qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The win delighted fans at the J.S. Blatter Field in the Samoan capital of Apia, who earlier in the day had witnessed a narrow 2-1 win for American Samoa against Tonga.
Cook Islands seemed set to take home at least a share of the points following Campbell Best’s equaliser with five minutes remaining, however Samoa prevailed thanks to Bell’s winner in the second minute of injury time.
An action-packed first half concluded with the home side 2-1 to the good courtesy of a double from Luki Gosche.
The first came on 20 minutes and was a deserved reward following a bright opening from the home team with Gosche set free through on goal after a smart reverse pass from Desmond Fa'aiuaso.
It could have been two within minutes only for Cook Islands goalkeeper Iona Lupena to make a spectacular save from Silao Malo’s penalty thus redeeming himself after fouling Fa'aiuaso.
The Islanders made the home team pay on 36 minutes with Banks converting from close-range after Paavo Mustonen’s curling free-kick was spilled by Samoa goalkeeper Masi Toetu. However, within seconds Samoa were back in front as Gosche bagged his second in similar fashion to his opening strike.
Samoa dominated periods of the second half only to pay for their profligacy when Best half volleyed the ball home across the goalkeeper from a tight angle. The home team’s pain was to be short-lived, however, as Bell converted in the second of three allocated minutes of injury time.
Samoa now face Tonga on Thursday before rounding out the group fixtures against neighbours American Samoa on Saturday.
“It was very important we started with a win because we haven’t played international football for four years,” said Samoa coach Tunoa Lui.