Fiji and Solomons will face off in the second semi-final of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 while Papua New Guinea will take on Samoa.
Fiji had a tough encounter with the Cook Islands but a goal in each of the two spells had them safely through by 2-0 while the Solomon Islands had a grinding 1-0 win over Tahiti at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.
This will be the second time the two teams will meet each other in the tournament having played their opening match which ended in 1-1 draw.
Four teams now remain in the competition and at stake is the opportunity to be the first Pacific Islands team in the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Here are the match reports:
Solomon Islands v Tahiti
Mary Maefiti’s moment of magic was all that separated the two nations as the Solomon Islands set up a semi-final clash with Fiji.
The wet weather in the Fijian capital made it difficult for both sides to produce the football they are capable of.
Tahiti had the better early chances in what was a largely uneventful opening period.
Kiani Wong stung the hands of Solomons goalie Corrina Rotoava while Hinavainui Malfatti slashed a great chance wide on her weaker right foot as Tahiti looked to gain the advantage.
But it took a moment of quality to break the deadlock with Maefiti the provider. The Solomon Islands midfielder danced away from her markers before clipping a shot from the edge of the box over the backtracking Tahiti goalkeeper Camille Andre to send the enthusiastic Solomons support into rapture.
The 28-year-old tried her luck from range again soon after, this time the ball flying harmlessly into Andre’s arms, before receiving a booking, along with Tahiti defender Raihei Tetauru, as tempers flared late in the first-half.
Maefiti tested Andre again early in the second-half while Rotoava got a crucial fingertip to Kohai Mai’s cross, denying a clear shot at goal for the waiting Tetia Mose at the back-post.
Tahiti were gifted the opportunity to level the scores in added time. An error from Edith Nari saw the ball land at the feet of Babou Tepea but she shanked her attempt wide.
The result for Batram Suri’s side is all the more impressive considering their place as the tournament’s second-lowest ranked nation at 120 in the world when the competition began.
Tahiti head coach Stéphanie Spielmann said they will be better in future tournaments.
“We have a very young team. A lot of those girls come from the U-19 and will be in the next competition for U-19. As we always say in Tahiti we are working for the future,” she said.
“The plan is for 10 years and we are in the middle, the fifth year, so we will continue what we are doing.”
Solomon Islands head coach Batram Suri said the girls did very well and now they are focused on their next game.
“I knew they would come hard against us in the second-half. But I told them that if we don’t score the next one we have to protect that only one goal so that we can win the game,” he said.
Fiji v Cook Islands
Goals in either half from captain Sofi Diyalowai and vice-captain Luisa Tamanitoakula secured victory for the Kulas in front of an excited home crowd.
First it was winger Trina Davis who saw her half-volley well saved by young Cook Islands shot-stopper Kimberly Uini. Cema Nasau’s 20-yard strike was next, ricocheting off the post as Fiji piled on the pressure.
Victoria Fatiaki then had the Cook Islands’ best chance of the opening period before Uini found herself fortunate not to concede, having been closed down by Fiji striker Vanisha Kumar.
The Cook Islands resolve was finally broken by the once again outstanding Diyalowai. The Fiji skipper played a swift one-two with her midfield partner Nasau before slotting the ball under the onrushing Uini to give Fiji a well-deserved lead.
The Cook Islands gathered themselves at half-time and had an opportunity to equalise early in the second period. Fatiaki again had the chance but she could only lob her effort wide over the advancing Fiji goalkeeper Seruwaia Vasuitoga.
After Kumar saw her shot well blocked by Uini and Davis mistimed a golden opportunity to stretch Fiji’s lead it was one of Lisa Cole’s substitutes who eventually got the crucial second goal.
Tamanitoakula scored in the 2018 meeting between these two sides and the vice-captain did so again, firing home the rebound after Uini had saved Adi Bakaniceva’s close-range attempt.
Fiji head coach Lisa Cole said the team was able to play their game having been affected by COVID at the start and they had depleting numbers.
“It was a real professional win for us. Getting that second goal in the second half kind of put us at ease but I think the biggest thing is we kept the tempo of the game quick and fast,” she said.
“We played our game and that is what I was the most proud of to be honest.”
Cook Islands acting head coach Tupou Brogan said they tried very hard but things did not go their way.
“The experience here has been great. Having the girls bond and keeping together has been awesome,” she said