A Sairusi Nalaubu double saw Fiji edge New Caledonia 2-1 in a thrilling encounter on Match Day 2 of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ Oceania Qualifiers.
While much of the pre-match attention on Fiji focussed on the inclusion of captain Roy Krishna in the starting side, just over 24 hours after he arrived in Qatar from India where he plays his club football, it was Nalaubu who stole the show with a goal in each half.
The fact that only one goal was scored through the first half, which saw Fiji lead, was perhaps not an accurate reflection of the first 45 minutes at the Suheim bin Hamad Stadium.
The ball moved frequently from end-to-end with plenty of scoring chances created, and while many of them were misguided, there was no denying Nalaubu’s opportunist goal on 11 minutes.
Intense pressure on New Caledonia skipper Emile Bearune saw Nalaubu emerge with the ball on the edge of the box, before he took a touch to move the keeper and finished.
Fifteen minutes into the second spell, after the ball spilled out following a corner, Cedrc Decoire launched a bullet from outside the box which flew into the back of the net, only to be called back for offside.
New Caledonia got their equaliser a on 78 minutes though, with Jordan Wetria escaping his marker to head home a driven cross from substitute Richard Sele.
But with a minute left in regulation time Krishna and Nalaubu combined to secure victory for Fiji ,with Nalaubu on hand to produce a powerful header into the top right corner following Krishna’s delivery on a free kick.
New Caledonia 1 (Jordan Wetria 78′)
Fiji 2 (Sairusi Nalaubu 11′, 89′)
New Caledonia: 23 Rocky NYIKEINE (GK), 2 Jordan WETRIA, 3 Joël WAKANUMUNE, 4 Pierre KAUMA, 5 Emile BEARUNE (c), 8 Pierre BAKO, 9 Morgan MATHELON, 11 Titouan RICHARD, 15 Jean-Luc DECOIRE, 17 Cédric DECOIRE, 22 Jean-Brice WADRIAKO. Substitutions: 1 Mickael ULILE (GK), 20 Jean-Gilles HNAMUKO GK, 6 Roberto NEOERE, 7 Joris KENON, 10 Richard SELE, 12 Louis PIAA, 13 Cédrick SANSOT, 14 Christopher WACALIE, 16 Germain HAEWEGENE, 18 Bertrand KAI, 19 Vincent VAKIE, 21 William ROKUAD. Coach: Dominique WACALIE
Fiji: 1 Mohammed ALAM (GK), 4 Sitiveni CAVUILAGI, 5 Remueru TEKIATE, 8 Setareki HUGHES, 9 Roy KRISHNA (c), 12 Tevita WARANAIVALU 14 Sairusi NALAUBU, 16 Atonio TUIVUNA, 18 Lekima GONERAU, 20 Ashnil RAJU, 21 Kishan SAMI. Substitutions: 22 Isikeli SEVANAIA (GK), 23 Akuila MATEISUVA (GK), 2 Peter RAVITISAI, 3 Muni Shivam NAIDU 6, Inoke TURAGALAILAI, 10 Nabil BEGG, 11 Edward AARON,13 Rahul NARESH, 17 Patrick JOSEPH, 19 Afraz ALI. Coach: Flemming SERRITSLEV