Fiji dominant start in the OFC Nations Cup after round 1

Mateo Degrumelle (left) showcases his dazzling football skills

It was an exciting Sunday of Football in Suva, with a small but vocal crowd at the HFC stadium to witness the first round of Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) games for Group B.

Tahiti and Samoa took to the field first and were evenly matched  and were prepared to go hard all afternoon.

Tahiti showcased their talents early in the game, with Mateo Degrumelle scoring the opening goal just 3 minutes in. A swift burst up the middle by Manuarii Shan provided for a perfect opportunity for Degrumelle to stab just past the Samoa goalkeeper.

Degrumelle and Shan had many other attempts to score but were unsuccessful.

Teaonui Tehau scored Tahiti’s second goal 27 minutes into the game.

Samoa tried their best but they could get past Tahiti’s strong defensive efforts. Eddy Kaspard was relentless in defense.

The score remained 2 – 0 for the rest of the game.

Then at 4pm, Fiji met Papua New Guinea.

Just 1:47 minutes in, a neatly placed ball slipped through PNG’s defensive line to find Fiji’s striker Nabil Begg with some room to run. Begg outpaced the last defender to put in a beautiful left footer between the posts.

The young 20-year-old had tremendous speed and pace, creating havoc for PNG each time he had the ball. Just before the half time break, Begg made a perfect cross for another youngster in the team, Thomas Dunn to score Fiji’s second goal.

Fiji continued their surge in the second half with wave after wave of clinical attack.

Dunn scored his second for the evening as the Fijians looked to close out the game strongly. The local crowd went wild after that moment. Dunn was awarded the player of the match after the game.

Setareki Hughes also chipped in to add his name to the score card while Fiji’s golden boy Roy Krishna drove in their last goal in the 65th minute.

PNG had some momentary opportunities throughout the game especially in the last 15 minutes. Tommy Semmy finally scored one for his team but it was too little too late for PNG.

Final score Fiji 5 – 1 PNG.

PNG Coach Warren Moon was disappointed.

“I thought the game was a lot closer than what the scoreline reflected. We were definitely punished by Fiji’s clinical efforts in scoring goals. We also had a lot of chances as well. We weren’t clinical enough in the first half when the game was on the line and the second goal before half time really hurt us”, said Moon.

“We just have to freshen the boys up. Stay positive. We know that we can do better than what we showed tonight overall. We are playing Tahiti which is positive and we’ll have a go at them. We are still in the tournament. We still have a lot to play for. And I know we’ll put on a much better show against Tahiti”, Moon added.

After the match, Fiji Coach, Robert Sherman said: “I’m very proud of all the boys to be honest. Defensively we did well. We limited their chances. In the first half we outweighed them with opportunities and probably the same the second half. We had to earn the win and we certainly did.”

Captain Roy Krishna added: “It was a tough match but I’m really proud of the boys. We have a young team. We did not put our head down after leading 2 – 0 at half time. But I think there’s still a lot of work to be done. Of course I was disappointed about conceding 1 goal but happy with the overall win.”

Player of the match Thomas Dunn noted: “The boys played really well but I think we have to forget this result and work on our next one. We have to work on our mistakes to be better. We should play our own game and not follow the other teams. Work hard, be disciplined and put God first and the results will come.”

Meanwhile, Group A of the OFC’s Men’s Nations Cup is being hosted at Fresh Water Stadium in Vanuatu and includes; New Zealand, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. [New Caledonia had to withdraw from the tournament.]