SPORTS

‘Bula Boys’ Return Home After Losing To PNG

The Digicel Fijian football team have bowed out of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Oceania qualifiers after losing 2-1 to Papua New Guinea at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha on 25th March 2022 . Both teams needed a win to finish second in Group B and qualify for the playoffs.
27 Mar 2022 13:26
‘Bula Boys’ Return Home After Losing To PNG
Digicel Fijian football midfielder Ashnil Raju runs back to challenge Papua New Guinea’s Michael Foster at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha on March 24, 2022. Photo: OFC Media

The Digicel Fijian football team have bowed out of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Oceania qualifiers after losing 2-1 to Papua New Guinea at the Grand Hamad Stadium in Doha on 25th March 2022 .

Both teams needed a win to finish second in Group B and qualify for the playoffs.

PNG came into the match knowing that a draw would be enough for them to advance, as they had a superior goal difference.

However, coach Bob Morris was after a win as his side looked to build on a brave loss to New Zealand and high energy win over New Caledonia by attacking from start to finish.

The Fijians certainly would have been forgiven for being a little shell shocked after their 4-0 loss to New Zealand earlier in the week.

What happened: After a tentative start by both sides, Tevita Waranaivalu decided to take matters into his own hands after 12 minutes and sparked a counterattack that saw the ball end up with Setareki Hughes on the left-hand edge of the box. His curling low cross back inside was inch-perfect for Waranaivalu to stretch out and finish a fantastic goal that put Fiji ahead 1-0.

Some wonderfully patient work by Fijian skipper Roy Krishna and Sairusi Naulabu set up Hughes for a good chance to double the lead, but his shot went wide.

This seemed to sting PNG into life, with a nice ball setting up Tommy Semmy to take possession in the box and cut back beautifully.

His shot was on target but tipped over the bar by Mohammed Alam, but his counterpart Ronald Warisan pulled off an even more spectacular effort at the other end not long after.

Krishna looked to have set up Naulabu with a low cross, but Warisan charged out and blocked the shot with his feet in an impressive piece of aerobatics.

However, the big moment of the match followed just as halftime loomed, with Waranaivalu getting sent off for an elbow to the head of Jacob Sabua. Referee Abdul Al Ruaile had no hesitation in showing a red after the off the ball contact.

This proved to be a serious momentum shift, which culminated in one of the goals of the tournament by PNG striker Ati Kepo.

His stunning turn of pace from almost halfway saw him run into the box and finish beautifully to draw PNG level.

Halftime: PNG 1-1 Fiji

They continued the domination after the break, with Semmy hitting the side netting twice in the space of five minutes.

It was then Warisan’s turn to shine again at the other end as Fiji desperately searched for an equaliser, putting his body on the line to deny Naulabu for a second time. Raymond Gunemba should have put it out of reach for PNG in the 82nd minute, but his shot from close range was blocked by replacement goalkeeper Isikeli Sevanaia.

In the end, it didn’t matter as PNG held firm in a frantic final stage.

The 2-1 win sends the Kapuls through to a semi-final against the Solomon Islands on Sunday Qatar time, however it means that Bula Boys will be heading home.

Line-up

1 Mohammed Alam (GK), 5 Remueru Tekiate, 6 Inoke Turagalailai, 8 Setareki Hughes, 9 Roy Krishna (c), 12 Tevita Waranaivalu, 13 Rahul Naresh, 14 Sairusi Nalaubu, 16 Atonio Tuivuna, 18 Lekima Gonerau, 20 Ashnil Raju .



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