A 1-1 draw against New Zealand giants Team Wellington was an incredible start to the Oceania Champions League for Marist FC of the Solomon Islands.
In the tournament’s Group of Death, the home side then secured a 1-1 draw with AS Magenta of New Caledonia, a country whose Champions League teams are some of the strongest in the Pacific.
But Marist FC are now faced with a big dilemma as they await a game with the group’s weakest side Lupe ole Soaga; will they be able to score enough to secure a quarter final place?
Team Wellington have already beaten Lupe 7-1 and AS Magenta won 2-0 in their game against the minnows. That means both teams are on four points in the group and Marist are on just two.
Marist have to win to stand a chance of qualifying, while a win for either Team Wellington or AS Magenta in their table-topping clash means Marist will qualify.
However, if Team Wellington and AS Magenta draw, Marist will have to win by more than two goals to qualify at the expense of Magenta.
Who is going to score the goals?
While Marist’s two draws are excellent results they also included a string of missed chances from the Marist strikers. The team has not looked like scoring many goals and their scorer against Team Wellington, attacking midfielder Abraham Iniga, will miss the final game after his red card against Magenta.
Iniga has played a forward role in a squad with very few out and out strikers. Mathias Iani has also played up front and is the only recognised striker in the squad.
Iani is talented and found himself in a couple of goalscoring positions against Magenta, but failed to get on the scoresheet.
Marist’s other options could be push talented midfielder Atkin Kaua further forward to support Iani, in the role Iniga would have played. At only 21, Kaua has shown he can score goals at all levels and could be an option to play up front against Lupe ole Soaga. After all, he did score TEN goals on his debut for Nelson College when he moved to New Zealand as a youngster.
Then there is the veteran Henry Fa’arodo. The Solomon Islands legend is a midfielder by trade but with 20 goals from the national team and an illustrious career filled with goals from midfield, he could be an option.
Marist are not short of goalscorers from midfield, but with the likes of Emiliano Tade, Raymond Gunemba and Ross Allen already proving the value of a goalscorer in this competition, could a lack of depth be their undoing in the group shoot out?