Home fans at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva were left elated this evening as Fiji advanced  to the quarter-finals of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 following a 3-1 win over New Caledonia in the capital.

Aliza Hussein’s free-kick and a brace from tournament top-scorer Sofi Diyalowai proved enough for a Fiji win despite Jackie Pahoa’s penalty in added time for New Caledonia.

It took less than five minutes for Fiji to take control of the game in front of a boisterous home crowd. Hussein delivered a free-kick from out wide that deceived Irène Nigote in the New Caledonia goal for a freak opener.

The goal inspired New Caledonia to fight back, with Jackie Pahoa and Alice Wenessia both testing Fiji stopper Seruwaia Vasuitoga but the hosts continued to look the sharper of the two teams.

Fiji winger Trina Davis twice called Nigote into action while New Caledonia were struggling to contain Cema Nasau’s powerful runs from midfield.

As the first-half dwindled away Fiji extended their advantage. Vanisha Kumar’s excellent hold-up play allowed player of the match Nasau to join the attack once again before she slipped in captain Diyalowai to poke home a composed outside of the boot finish.

New Caledonia came out swinging in the second period, Thérèse Pawawi seeing her shot saved before Wenessia had two bites at the cherry to score. Her first effort was well stopped by Vasuitoga but she will be disappointed at miskicking her second effort with the goal at her mercy.

Wenessia then had a penalty appeal turned away before Fiji punished their opponents’ lack of a clinical edge.

Nasau again had New Caledonia’s defenders on the backfoot and her cross was only cleared as far as Diyalowai, with the captain placing home her third goal of the tournament for 3-0.

Michel Berbeche’s side continued to fight, Wenessia again forcing Fiji’s Vasuitoga into an outstanding save while Pahoa and Uregei also came close but Fiji had plenty of chances to stretch their advantage further, Nasau, Mereoni Tora, Diyalowai and Davis all coming close.

In the fight for qualification, Pahoa then scored what could prove a crucial consolation goal from the penalty spot after Evivi Buka’s mistimed challenge on Claudia Wassin.

However, neither the late goal or rainstorm could dampen the home nation’s spirits who are now through to the quarter-finals.

Fiji must wait for the result of the Solomon Islands’ final group game against New Caledonia on Wednesday, July 20 to see if they win the group. Meanwhile, New Caledonia will need a positive result in that same fixture to have any chance of advancing to the final eight.

Post-match thoughts: 

Fiji head coach Lisa Cole:

“I thought we were a bit tight in that first game (a 1-1 draw with Solomon Islands) and seemed a bit nervous which is expected…

“Today I said let’s just go out and be brave and go after the game and that I think we will be happy with the result if that’s the case.”

New Caledonia head coach Michel Berbeche:

“We have got quite a young team and the competition we have been put in is very difficult. You could see there were many differences between the two teams with the opposing team having much more experience.

“I am proud of my team because they are here to learn. Even if they did not score a goal I would be proud of my team.”

Fiji 3 (Aliza HUSSEIN 4’, Sofi DIYALOWAI 45’, 55’)

New Caledonia 1 (Jackie PAHOA 90+1’ pen)

Half-time: 2-0