Host nation Fiji were held to a 1-1 draw in their OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 opener as two goals in the first-half settled an exciting encounter with the Solomon Islands in Suva.
The game started in high-octane fashion, both teams inspired by vociferous support inside the HFC Bank Stadium.
Fiji eventually took control in the capital, with the dangerous wide-play of Koleta Likuculacula and Trina Davis well supplemented by captain Sofi Diyalowai’s creativity in midfield.
After 22 minutes the Fiji skipper turned provider for the opening goal, playing a perfectly weighted pass to Vanisha Kumar whose powerful shot beat Solomon Islands goalkeeper Margaret Kofela.
The opener sent the home fans wild but this was the Solomon Islands’ first OFC Women’s Nations Cup game since drawing 0-0 against the same opponents in 2010. After a 12-year absence they were clearly not willing to go down without a fight.
Soon enough, the strong Solomon Islands supporting contingent had reason to cheer. Referee Anna-Marie Keighley pointed to the penalty spot after Jemina David was tumbled over in the box by Unaisi Tuberi. Solomons captain Ileen Pegi stepped up to take responsibility from 12 yards, sending Seruwaia Vasuitoga the wrong way to equalise.
The Solomon Islands continued to look dangerous on the counter-attack, with Vasuitoga producing an excellent save from Almah Gogoni before Likuculacula missed a golden opportunity for Fiji on the brink of half-time after superb build-up play from Davis.
After the high-tempo action in the first-half the second period settled into a less frenetic pattern.
Fiji eventually gained the upper hand, with Mereoni Tora twice heading wide and Kumar forcing a fine reaction save from Kofela.
However, the Solomon Islands stayed diligent to head coach Batram Suri’s gameplan and held out to leave the hosts frustrated in the Fijian capital.
The draw leaves Group C finely poised with Fiji and New Caledonia up next on Sunday, July 17 before the Solomon Islands look to build on their positive performance against New Caledonia on Wednesday, July 20.
Solomon Islands 1 (Ileen PEGI 37’ pen)
Fiji 1 (Vanisha KUMAR 22’)