Football | MAGAZINES

Fiji Rally Together, NZ Continue Title Hunt

A cloud of sadness hung over Match Day 3 of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship last Monday as news of the passing of Fiji youth international Francine Lockington filtered through
20 Jul 2017 10:40
Fiji Rally Together, NZ Continue Title Hunt
Fiji's Veniana Ranadi control the ball. OFC U-19 Women's Championship 2017, Samoa v Fiji, Ngahue Reserve Auckland, Monday 17th July 2017. Photo: David Joseph / www.phototek.nz

A cloud of sadness hung over Match Day 3 of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship last Monday as news of the passing of Fiji youth international Francine Lockington filtered through the team camps.

However with a job to do, all six teams set about continuing their campaigns as best they could with Papua New Guinea coming from behind to secure a 4-1 win over Tonga before New Zealand ran to a 12-0 victory against New Caledonia.

In Fiji and Samoa match, Fiji struck first but allowed Samoa back into the match. The two teams ultimately proved inseparable thanks to a late equaliser from Fiji locking them up at 2-2.

It was a tough outing for the Fijian girls who were still visibly shaken by the loss of their teammate and Fiji coach Saroj Kumar dedicated his side’s valiant performance to the late Lockington.

“Today they were playing for Francine,” he said.

“Francine was our number one goalkeeper and when they came here to the ground on the bus, normally our team comes in singing but today they came in crying for Francine. The game was dedicated to Francine. All the games that we play from today are for Francine.”

At first he said they were down because of what has happened. “The girls were crying when they went inside the changing room at half-time. We tried to psych them up and boost up their morale.”

He said they were playing for heart and did well. “Even with a player down they showed the guts to come back and played even better than the first half.” The match looked like it was Fiji’s to win for the majority, and the side was unlucky not to convert the several opportunities created in front of the Samoa goal.  Samoa goalkeeper Katarina Ah Sui had to be replaced in the first half when she sustained an injury after making an excellent save.

Fiji pushed forward early in the second half and earned their lead when Cema Nasau sent a cracker over substitute goalkeeper Jecky Toma’s hands. Samoa fired back fast and had earned the lead less than 10 minutes later after Hunter Malaki nailed in a free kick and Shalom Fiso followed with a powerful shot in the top corner.

Both teams threw everything into the final minutes of the match, with Fiji’s determined defending seeing them down to 10 players after goal scorer Mereoni Tora received a second yellow. However their high pressing paid off when they were awarded a free kick just outside the box in the first minute of injury time.

Captain Luisa Tamanitoakula took a stab at goal herself and the risky move proved successful as she placed the ball just out of the keeper’s reach in the top corner for the equaliser.

Samoa coach Martin Tamasese said defence was an area they were working on, so to concede two goals wasn’t exactly how he saw the match going.

“We’ve been working hard on our defence, and we had chances to finish so hard luck for us,” he said.

“They were pretty hard to break down and the result was a bit unexpected but the girls did well and hopefully we will be better for the next game.”

The Vodafone sponsored side will play Papua New Guinea tomorrow and will face New Caledonia in the final match on Monday. Fiji won 4-0 against Tonga, lost 1-9 against New Zealand and drew 2-2 against Samoa.

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