Fiji overcame a robust resistance from Group B opponents Tonga to secure a 3-0 win in their OFC U-19 Championship 2022 clash at Stade Pater in Papeete, Tahiti.
Second-half goals from Mohammed Raheem, Mustafa Mohammed and Nabil Begg ensured all three points for Ronil Lal’s side.
Fiji will have been disappointed not to take the lead in a tame first-half, with Begg and Melvin Mani both missing golden opportunities to give them the lead.
These two nations last met at this competition a decade ago, with Fiji winning 7-1 in the group stages. Tonga seemed intent on avoiding a repeat result and held out until half-time with Ulukaulupe ‘Akolo even threatening to snatch the lead, heading wide from a long-throw.
Tonga struggled to deal with Fiji’s dead-ball deliveries, especially from corners and full-back Kulisitofa Kite who made two identical goal-line clearances within a minute of each other early in the second period.
Kite’s free-kick then tested Fiji keeper Aydin Mustahib for the first time before the continued pressure from set-pieces finally broke through Tonga’s resistance.
Raheem rose high above the Tonga defence to header home the opener and Fiji soon had breathing space as another corner led to Mohammed hammering home their second.
Since winning the title in 2014, Fiji have struggled in this competition, exiting at the group stage in both 2016 and 2018. However, Begg headed home Fiji’s third to ensure a perfect start to their 2022 campaign.
Fiji will now face Tahiti in their final Group B fixture on Wednesday, September 14 in what could be a decider for top spot. Tonga are scheduled to play Papua New Guinea earlier the same day with hopes of qualifying as a best third-placed side still present.