Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
Fiji have overcome Samoa in a tight contest to reach the Final of OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2023 with a 3-1 victory at HFC Bank Stadium.
Two late first-half goals, first from Sonia Alfred and then from substitute Timaima Ana set the stage for a Fiji victory and ensured that the host nation side will play in Saturday’s Final.
Samoa had enjoyed much of the possession and territory in the first period but had failed to create much in the way of clearcut chances. Arianna Skeers floated free-kick straight into the arms of Fiji goalkeeper Mereseini Waqali the only real test for the Fiji No.1
Fiji themselves showed danger on the counter and tested Samoa ‘keeper Tsehai Viliamu on a number of occasions, including a rifled effort from full-back Sereana Naweni that stung the palms of Viliamu.
The breakthrough came in the final minutes of the first half and would be followed by a second goal that truly put Fiji in command.
First, Adi Bakaniceva’s cross-shot from the right-hand side crept through the legs of goalkeeper Viliamu, with Sonia Alfred reacting before others to poke the ball home from just in front of the goal line.
Samoa barely had time to catch their breath before they found themselves 2-0 down. This time from the left, Pijila Kilaiwaca drover a cross through the danger area and after neither goalkeeper nor defenders could deal with the loose ball, Timaima Ana was on hand to tap-in and send the home support into ecstasy.
A number of substitutions early in the second-half had hoped to give Samoa a boost in their efforts to get into the match but they continued to struggle in finding a way through a resolute Fijian defence. Arianna Skeers, Sariah Taeaoalii and Lilly Dowsing, so influential throughout this tournament, were well dealt with by the hosts.
The killer third goal came with a little over twenty minutes remaining, when the outstanding Preeya Singh found space 25 yards from goal and with time to get a shot off, lifted her effort over and out of the reach of Viliamu to give Fiji a third and rubber stamp their passage to Saturday’s Final.
As Samoa continued to push, Fiji found more and more space in behind to exploit and almost added a fourth with ten minutes remaining when Rebecca McGoon shot low from the edge of the area, only to be denied by Viliamu. Pijila Kilaiwaca’s follow up struck the outside of the post from a tight angle.
A consolation goal did arrive via the penalty spot. Arianna Skeers, arguably Samoa’s best player on the day was upended in the box and took it upon herself to take the resulting kick, side-footing high into the top corner to give her side a glimmer of hope.
It was to remain just a glimmer as Fiji saw out the resulting minutes with relative comfort to send the home crowd into raptures and secure a place in the Final on Saturday to meet either New Zealand or the Cook Islands.
Samoa: 1 (Arianna SKEERS 86′)
Fiji: 3 (Sonia ALFRED 44′, Timaima ANA 45+3′, Preeya SINGH 69′)