The young SIFF LEARN & play Team opened their campaign in the Vanuatu TVL International Tournament with a 4 - 1 victory over the Vanuatu North team on Saturday at the Port Vila Stadium. It was a good start from a side who were worried about their lack of international exposure going into the tournament.The LEARN & play side gained a very early advantage in the game through towering striker, John Bitiai, who fired from outside the 18 yard box in the first minute to put his side 1 - 0 ahead.
After the early goal both teams struggled for some form. While the LEARN & play side was solid in defense they had trouble breaking into the Vanuatu North danger zone. Time and again they were repelled by the taller Vanuatu backline.
Capitalizing on some midfield errors by the Solomon Islands side Vanuatu North pulled one back late in the first half to level the terms of the game. The score line remained unchanged at 1 - 1 as the teams went out for the half time break.
The LEARN & play side went into the second half with more confidence and 6 minutes later midfielder Jimmy Raramane fired a long ranger to further his team's advantage to 2 - 1.
After a spell of equally shared tough encounters in the midsection Jimmy Raramane struck again from outside the 18 yard box in the 68th minute giving LEARN & play a healthy 2 goal buffer at 3 goals to 1.
Four minutes before full time left-flanker, Gabriel Bosi, turned in from the left beat a defender and cheekily placed the ball to the far post with the goalkeeper flatfooted and helpless. The boys held on to their 4 - 1 advantage to finish the game with an historic victory.
It was a hard fought win but more importantly it was a confidence booster for the young players who now for the first time in their lives experienced what it was like to win for their country.
Speaking to the Vanuatu media after the match Head Coach Christopher Asipara said that he is happy with the team's performance. He said that the defenders did their job well all throughout the match and must be commended. His only concern will be getting the players to attack from the lines as opposed to continuously attacking through the middle. "We need to vary our attack and this is something we will have to work on before the second game," Asipara said.
Head of Delegation, Phillip Ohoto'ona, commended the boys for the win saying that they deserve to be happy after a very good performance. "Our composure was not 100 per cent in our first match but we will ensure to improve this in the second game," Ohoto'ona said.
Ohoto'ona also thanked the Solomon Islanders in Vanuatu for coming out to back the team acknowledging that their support may have played a role in the victory.
The LEARN & play Team will play its second match against the Vanuatu Olympic Team today.