Caption: Battle on… The Vodafone Fiji under-20 side to play Solomons where a win will see them in the FIFA Under 20 World Cup next year. Photo: ANUSHIL KUMAR.
By ANUSHIL KUMAR
The Vodafone Fiji side will now play the decider against Solomons on Saturday after they were held to a 2-2 draw by Vanuatu in their fourth match of the OFC under-20 Championship at ANZ Stadium in Suva today, May 29.
It was the Etienne Mermer coached Vanuatu side who threw the first blood into the game as Bong Kalo blasted-in the first goal in the 22nd minute following a cross from Justin Koka.
However, it took three minutes for the home side to level the score 1-1 in the 25th minute with Nickel Chand neatly finishing a switched cross by Praneel Naidu giving the fans something to cheer for.
Captain Jale Dreloa gave Fiji a slender lead in the 40th minute as Narendra Rao came in with a cross as Dreloa rushed in for a header which saw the hosts enjoying a 2-1 lead at the breather.
Vanuatu came firing into the second half as it was Kerry Iawak who equalized in the 57th minute with a flip-shot that dropped into the net behind Fijian goalkeeper Misiwani Nairube.
Speaking to The Jet, Fiji coach Ravinesh Kumar was happy with the both teams performance and commended his defenders for a great show in the second half.
“It was a great game by both the sides as it shows that the level of competition in the oceania region is growing too fast,” Kumar stated.
“The last game is now down to the wire and Solomon knows that if Fiji wins that game, they will qualify for the finals,” he added. “They (Solomons) will surely give us a strong challenge on Saturday.”
Vanuatu coach Etienne Mermer said they played against a good team and the final score says it all.
“We certainly played against a great team (Fiji) and we put them under pressure in the second half,” Mermer said.
“I told my boys to keep playing football and we will surely come back into the game and it did work out.” he concluded.
Fiji will take on Solomon Islands on Saturday while Vanuatu will battle PNG. Since both Fiji and Vanuatu are in contention to qualify, both matches on Saturday are expected to kick-off at the same time at two different venues. OFC will confirm about the time and venue by tomorrow (Friday).
Fiji: 1. Misiwani NAIRUBE (GK), 2. Praneel NAIDU, 3. Garish Henry PRASAD, 4. Jale DRELOA (c), 5. Antonam io TUIVUNA, 6. Mohammed Shuiad KHAN, 7. Nikel Nishal CHAND, 9. Samuela NABENIA, 10. Narendra RAO, 15. Saula Matayalo WAQA, 17. Kolinio Vakarauvanua SIVOKI
Vanuatu: 1. Charlie WAIVUI (GK), 2. Jaison THOMAS, 4. Alphonse LENCY,6. Remy KALSRAP, 8. Justin KOKA, 9. Tony KALTACK, 10. Bong KALO, 14. Gersom KALSONG, 16. Jacky RUBEN (c), 17. Sam IWAI, 18. Kerry IAWAK