Vanuatu, Fiji advance into the last four

Vanuatu and Fiji have secured their spots in the semi-finals after wins against Tonga and Papua New Guinea respectively on match day two of Group B at the OFC Men’s Olympic Qualifier 2019 at Churchill Park in Lautoka, Fiji.

With only three other teams in the pool, Vanuatu didn’t need extra motivation as they displayed a clinical performance, putting 8 goals past Tonga to follow up on their opening win and secure a spot in the play-off with full match points from two matches.

The Etienne Mermer coached  side were rewarded in the 28th minute with Bong Kalo putting Vanuatu in front with a nice finish in the box.

Kalo followed up with his second, a minute later in a similar style, before Jonathan SpokeyJack connected a cross from Bethuel Ollie for an early three goal lead two minutes later.

With an additional 2 minutes added, Lency Philip and Jordy Tasip combined beautifully, sending Ollie through for Vanuatu’s fourth just before half time whistle.

Vanuatu returned after the break looking more positive adding four more goals with Kalo completing his hat-trick before being replaced by Azariah Soromon who managed to add another goal to his tally.

Etienne Mermer’s men were in the driver’s seat for the duration of the game.

“The most important thing is we continue to win, however it’s not easy especially up against the Tongans who are physically strong,” Mermer explained.

“We were focused and continued to played well, getting behind the ball and it worked for us scoring more goals.”

Meanwhile his Tongan counterpart Timote Moleni praise his boys fighting spirit despite the score line.

“It’s a hard game for us knowing that Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Fiji are good teams but I am pleased with the way my boys played,” he said.

“We worked hard especially in defending but it’s good for us to prepare for the next game .”

Fiji had to fight for their money in the second match against a determined Papua New Guinea who had everything to play for despite their opening defeat to Vanuatu.

It was a crucial match for both teams with their eyes already fixed on the next stage of the competition.

The hosts opted for a 4-4-2 line up with strikers Tito Vodowaqa and Sekove Finau upfront and co-captain Kishan Sami wearing the armband.

The Fijians missed some good scoring opportunities with Savenaca Baledrokadroka, Vodowaqa, and Finau all went in close twice for the home side in opening 20 minutes.

Papua New Guinea raised their game in the remaining 10 minutes of the first half with chances to Benard Purari and Gimale Essacu.

Puraru had a shout for a penalty as he fell in the box due to a challenge from Fiji custodian Mohammed Alam.

Moments later, Fiji attack at the end led to the opening goal scored by Baledrokadroka.

The hosts held on for a 1-0 lead as both teams went back into the sheds at the break.

The Bula boys keep on pressing in the second half to grab a second goal courtesy of Patrick Joseph close-range finish in the 50 minutes.

Consistent pressure from Papua New Guinea resulted in some match-winning saves from Alam.

Alam could don’t keep a clean sheet as Emmanuel Simongi pulled a goal back for Papua New Guinea.

Vodowaqa puts the icing on the cake for Fiji with a third three minutes from full time to put the game to bed.

Fiji coach Marika Rodu it was a pressure game as stakes are high for the semi-final places in mind.

“I think we took a step forward in terms from the first game, second game Papua New Guinea had to come strong,” he said.

“We anticipated I think the pressure came on to us instead of enjoying the game. Again we created so many opportunities to score in the first half that went begging.

“So securing semi-final position was very important in this game that’s why the pressure was there and was evident in some the silly mistakes that we have incurred during this game.

“So now takes a bit pressure off us but what is important now is to make sure that we prepare well for the last game because the idea is we want to lead the pool.”

His opposite number, Papua New Guinea coach Percy Mataio lamented on his team lapse of concentration in the key moments of the game.

“We did a lot of things we didn’t want to do today, we trained for something to improve on with this game,” he said.

“I thought in moments we supposed to do the right things we didn’t click at those moments and cost us cheap goals towards the end.”

Group B will come back into final action on Saturday 28 September with Papua New Guinea taking on Tonga at 12noon followed by Fiji and Vanuatu battling for the top spot at 3pm (local) in Lautoka.