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Fierce battle

Turtles to tackle Shields in first semi encounter this afternoon


Kennedy Watemae (right) is so far the leading goal scorer for Central Shiels in the tournament. He will be a key man to watch in this afternoon’s match.

THE first semifinal of the Telekom Solomon Cup will get underway this afternoon between Central Shields and Western Turtles.

The match will kick off at 1:30pm at Lawson Tama Stadium.

Coming into the tournament, both teams have been labeled as under-dogs.

However, they have proved critics wrong by managing to finish well in the two spots in their respective pools despite a fierce battle going up against their pool opponents.

This will be the first time in the history of the Solomon Cup that Western Turtles will meet Central Shields in the semifinal.

Central Shields have qualified into the semis in the previous editions on two occasions but never managed to reach the final.

Central Shields’ qualification in the last four was a well-orchestrated one having started their tournament on a high by stunning Honiara 3-2 in the opening fixture.

In the second match, they defeated Guadalcanal Hornets 5-2 to increase lead in their pool before been hammered 7-0 by Lauru Kuvojo in their third match.

Following their massive loss against the Lauru Kujovo, there have been doubts posed by critics that they will never make it into the semi-final.

Conley Rata of Western Turtles (left) will be a keyman upfront for his team today when they take on Central Shields in the first semi today at 1:30pm.

But in the final pool match against Temotu Arrows, they won 2-0 to register vital maximum points and qualified into the semis.

Knowing what’s at stake, Coach Tome Kiki affirms that they are taking this match seriously and are expected to throw in everything when marching in to take on Turtles.

It is highly likely that the notable figures who are making the first 11 for Shields this afternoon are captain Oscar Sara, Kennedy Watemae and Edward Sapia. The trio appeared to be Shields’ consistent performers since day one of the competition.

Speaking to the media after final pool match, coach Kiki said they have a lot of respect for Western Turtles and would treat this match as final.

“Western have shown in the competition that they are a very good side.

“Their run into the semi-finals makes them a very strong side.

“But we will be ready for them,” Kiki said.

On the other hand, Western Turtles became one of the only two teams in the competition that have maintained an unbeaten form along side Malaita Eagles.

Therefore, with a sound record like that, they have proven that they are a team worthy of reaching the grandfinal despite finishing the pool play as runner-up.

Captained by experienced and towering defender Robert Riqeo, their determination to reach the final was shown in their first match when they held Malaita Eagles to a 1-1 draw.

Malaita Eagles scored first before they equalized later through Conley Rata to give Turtles register their first point of the competition.

Turtles’ second match was against a star-studded Real Kakamora side. With their opponent being the favourites, they stunned the Nicholas Muri-captained side in a 3-2 scoreline to upset the Solomon Games soccer champion and register their intention to finish top in the pool.

In their third match, they recorded a 2-1 win over the Avaiki Chiefs before going for another 3-3 draw with Isabel Frigates to secure early passage into the semi play-off.

Looking at the match this afternoon, it is highly that Turtles will start with Jimmy Awa guiding the two sticks, Robert Riqeo leading the defense alongside Gabriel Kavari, Alo Jilini and Martin Rence.

Leonard Rokoto is expected to be key man controlling the center of the park with the help of Robson Zeloti and Andrew Tiazi.

Upfront, if is highly likely that they will employ three strikers. They include Robert Tanavoqa, Olodin Arawe and sneaky Conley Rata. The combination of the trio has been outstanding throughout the competition.

Coach Aleck Wickham said they are ready for the semis.

“Like in the other games, we’ll just go in and do what we have to do inorder to win the game,” he said.

Meanwhile, the second semi-final will take place tomorrow between Lauru Kuvojo and Malaita Eagles.

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