The Qantas Socceroos secured a convincing 5-1 victory over the Solomon Islands in the first leg of the Oceania Nations Cup Final played in Honiara today. The first of the two-match series, which doubles as the qualifier for the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, was played in extreme mid-afternoon heat in front of a boisterous capacity crowd of 21,000 at the Lawson Tama Stadium.
First half goals to Josip Skoko (2), Ante Milicic and Brett Emerton, plus a late goal to Ahmad Elrich was enough to see off a spirited challenge from the home side.
The Australian side started the game in spectacular fashion scoring through Skoko in just the 5th minute and by halftime the match was seemingly over with the visitors holding a 4-0 lead.
Emerton producing a stunning virtuoso display in the first stanza playing a significant role in each of the first three goals before getting on the scoresheet himself a minute before the interval.
Earlier Qantas Socceroo striker Milicic scored from close range while Skoko grabbed his second on the half hour mark when Emerton broke through and drew the goalkeeper before squaring for Skoko to score with ease.
The home side weren’Äôt without their chances with striking duo Batram Suri and Commins Menapi both having good chances to score in the first half.
Despite the lopsided scoreline the Solomons continued to push forward and were finally rewarded for their endeavour with Menapi sending the home crowd into raptures with a deserved goal in the 57th minute. Play having to be held up for a full three minutes as the pitch was cleared of items having been thrown in the air by the crowd amongst joyous scenes.
The heat took it’Äôs toll on the Australians with the home side dominating periods of the second half carving out a number of chances to score. Frank Farina replacing the tiring legs of European-based trio Emerton, Vince Grella and Lucas Neill with Mile Sterjovski and debutants Luke Wilkshire and Jon McKain.
Flankman Elrich was rewarded for a tireless display with a goal ten minutes from time after a superb build-up involving several players. The goal deflating the home side with the match petering out in the dying stages.
Australian coach Frank Farina was delighted with his team’Äôs performance in the extreme conditions ’ÄúOverall I’Äôm very happy with both the result and the performance, it was a very professional job from the whole team in what were very trying and difficult conditions.’Äù
written by Soccer Australia