Goals were not in such plentiful supply on a more competitive day two of 2010 FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers in Apia, but there was still plenty for the small crowd in Samoa to enthuse about.
After the net bulged 34 times on the opening day of the South Pacific Games, the eight teams competing in four matches on the second day of competition managed just under half that tally on Monday. Nevertheless, Fiji, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands all won a second game to keep up their hopes of finishing in one of the three medal places at the games, which are being used by the Oceania Football Confederation as the first stage of their South Africa 2010 preliminary competition.
For the locals, however, the best was saved for last as Samoa bounced back from an opening day 4-0 defeat to Vanuatu to secure their first points of the tournament, hammering American Samoa in their derby match-up in the final game of the day. The Samoans won 7-0 against their neighbours, who have now conceded 19 goals in their opening two matches. Among the goalscorers was their captain, Chris Cahill, brother of the Australian international Tim Cahill, who played for the Socceroos at the FIFA World Cup finals in Germany last year.
Australia-born Cahill, who chose to play for the country of his mother's birth, scored twice in what was just his second full international. "It's an honour for me and my family to be able to captain the national team," he said. "We showed a great improvement from Saturday, when we were outplayed. We need to have more games like this to gain experience at international level."
*Chambaron furious * New Caledonia had a scare in their game against Tuvalu, who put their 16-0 opening day drubbing by Fiji firmly behind them to deliver a feisty showing against the French territory. In the end, it was only a silly mistake from goalkeeper Jay Timo that cost the tiny island nation, whose population is just 7,000-strong.
In an attempt to clear upfield, Timo kicked the ball against the chest of Iamel Kabeu, who watched in delight as it rebounded into the net. Nevertheless, New Caledonia's coach Didier Chambaron was furious with the performance afterwards, describing it as "lamentable".
Though key players had been rested for what was presumed to be a routine clash, Chambaron said: "That should be no excuse. We played with a new team but it was bad. We did not have any respect for our opponents."
Despite their slack showing, New Caledonia moved joint-top of the standings with Fiji, who beat youthful side from the Cook Islands 4-0. Some poor errors cost the Cook Islands as they gave away an early penalty and then saw defender Daniel Shepherd sent off for two bookable offences inside the first 40 minutes.
That allowed Fiji to dictate the game, although they were restricted to just four goals by a physically strong Cook Island side who showed admirable commitment. "They put up a disciplined and spirited performance and that made me very, very pleased," said Cook Islands coach Tim Jerks. Osea Vakatalesau scored Fiji's first goal to take his tournament tally to seven after a double hat-trick on Saturday.
Tournament favourites the Solomon Islands also chalked up a less convincing win than their 12-1 opening day victory over American Samoa, but did enough to cruise past Tonga 4-0. The Solomons' goals came from George Suri, Commins Menapi, Henry Fa'arodo and Alick Maemae. "We had a lot of chances to finish them off but 4-0 was not really satisfactory," captain Menapi told FIFA.com afterwards. "But in the end, it is a win. We have the players to win the gold and if we continue to play the way we want to, we can do it."