Fiji marked their return to international football in 2018 with a narrow 3-2 loss to the Philippines at Rizal Memorial Football Stadium in Manila overnight.
After not being able to finish on their first three shots on goal, the Philippines Azkals were gifted a penalty attempt after Misagh Bahadoran was fouled inside the box in the 28th minute.
The Philippines’ leading goal scorer Phil Younghusband stepped up and sank the penalty in the 29th minute for his 49th international goal to give the Azkals a 1-0 lead.
Fiji struggled to beat the Philippines defenders despite creating some decent presses forward.
Wellington Phoenix striker Roy Krishna was introduced off the bench in the 40th minute to replace debutant Filipe Baravilala, and things started looking up for the visitors.
However the Azkals continued their strong first half performance to find the net twice more, in the 52nd and 61st minutes respectively, with Fijian goalkeeper Epeli Loaniceva well beaten on both occasions.
Fiji head coach Christophe Gamel then sent in two more debutants Kishan Sami and Epeli Leiroti with Epeli Saukuru and the boys finally found the rhythm they’d been chasing.
Zibraaz Sahib broke away in the 74th minute and played Roy Krishna, who then over-lapped it to Ame Votoniu to get Fiji on the score-sheet.
With continuous pressure, Roy Krishna broke away once again in the 79th minutes having beaten two defenders and the goalkeeper, however he was fouled by the beaten goalkeeper inside the box. The striker then successfully converted from the spot to make it 3-2.
Philippines sustained immense pressure during the latter stages of the game as Fiji tried all possibilities to find the equaliser but the Azkals defense stood firm to the final whistle handing them the victory.
Fiji have one more match in the Philippines before they return home, taking on professional club side Kaya FC tomorrow.