Fiji have become the first side to book their place in the OFC U-19 Championship 2022 semi-finals after a 4-1 quarter-final win over Samoa at Stade Pater in Papeete, Tahiti.
A hat-trick from Melvin Mani helped his nation into the final four in the first of today’s quarter-final matches against a spirited Samoa side, who scored their first main finals goal since 2007.
Samoa, playing in the quarter-finals for the first time, started the stronger of the two sides with Greg Siamoa and Victor Leddy both troubling the Fiji defence in the opening stages.
It eventually took an inspired piece of improvisation to break the deadlock in what was an even contest, as Mani’s clever flick looped over the outstretched Joel Bartley for 1-0.
On the brink of half-time Fiji doubled their advantage. On this occasion, Samoa were the architects of their own downfall as a defensive mix-up allowed Mani to fire in his second.
Historically, Fiji have a superb record in this fixture. Of the five previous meetings at this tournament, the Junior Bula Boys have won all five, scoring 34 times and conceding just once.
But early in the second-half Samoa doubled that scoring record in sensational fashion as Leddy hit an unstoppable half volley to halve the deficit.
The fightback was short-lived, as just a minute later Alex Malauulu was adjudged to have tripped Razool in the box and Mani despatched the penalty for his hat-trick and Fiji’s third.
As Samoa pressed forward Fiji looked dangerous on the counter-attack, with Bartley saving well to deny Mani and Nabil Begg.
However, the Samoa stopper could not stop substitute Peniasi Rotidara’s well-placed effort for 4-1 as Fiji advanced to the semi-finals for the first time since 2014, when they went on to claim the title.
Ronil Lal’s side will take on the winners of today’s next quarter-final between New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands on Wednesday, September 21, with all four last eight matches taking place today.
Fiji U-19 4 (Melvin MANI 35′, 45+1′, 56 pen’, Peniasi ROTIDARA 81′)
Samoa U-19 1 (Victor LEDDY 54’)