Striker Petero Maivalenisau scored a brace goals as host nation Fiji defeated Cook Islands 3-0 to book their place in the semifinals of the OFC U17 Championship at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva today.
Both teams entered the field beaming with confidence after winning their last pool matches earlier in the week.
Fiji defeated Tonga 3-0 on Wednesday while the Cook Islands had a 2-1 win over Vanuatu.
The Fijians missed the services of Ibraheem Afazal, Vilikesa Vosagaga and Jacob Seninawanawa who sustained injuries while Sailimone Ravonokula was out with suspension after copping a red card against Tonga.
Cook Islands launched some early attacks but the solid defence of Neeraj Sharma and Vinayak Rao kept the attackers at bay.
Jordan Matapo’s corner kick in the 29th minute was daringly tapped over the crossbar by Ilisoni Koroi while Shane Tuteru and Christpher Pita were contained well by William Khan and Watisoni Batirerega on the other end of the field.
Maivalenisau opened the account for Fiji after he pounced on a Batirererga shot and in the added time of the first half.
Fijian coach Sunil Kumar put in Nirav Kumar in place of Vinayak Rao just before the break.
Early in the second stanza, match official, David Yareboinen flashed a yellow card to Cook Islands midfielder Stanley Tutai for foul play.
Fiji was awarded a free kick which Delon Shankar took and his bullet shot hit the crossbar before Tutai chested the ball into his own net, giving the home side a 2-0 lead.
Some ill-discipline prevailed in the match from both the teams and as a result the match referee flashed three yellow cards to Fiji’s Isimeli Gavidi, Shankar and goal scorer Maivalenisau while Cook Islands attacker Shane Tuteru also received a card.
Kumar made further changes for Fiji with goalkeeper Savenaca Nabati and Shahil Deo making their debut while Peni Mesipopi and Waisea Nagonelevu entered the field in place of Captain Aron Naicker, Neeraj Sharma to add more fire play in their backline.
Cook Islands tried to make a comeback in the match through Dallas Rongokea and Teariki Ringi but Nabati daringly tapped the ball away on two occasions.
In the final few minutes of the match, Fiji could have gone up by another goal from a Prashant Kumar set up but Batirerega kicked the ball out just in front of the goal mouth.
Maivalenisau bagged his second goal after heading in a Kumar set up which Cook Islands goalkeeper misjudged.
Fiji: Ilisoni Koro (GK) (Savenaca Nabati), Aron Naicker (C), Isimeli Gavidi, Prashant Kumar (Sahil Deo), Richard Swami (Peni Mesipopi), Delon Shankar, Watisoni Batirerega, Neeraj Sharma, Willaim Khan, Petero Maivalenisau, Vinayak Rao (Nirav Kumar)
Cook Islands: Teina Ngametua (GK), Tione Nand, Shane Tuteru, Christpher Pita, Dallas Rongokea, Teariki Ringi, Jeremiah Williams, Stanley Tutai, Tamuera Newhnam, Jordan Matapo, Dwayne Matapo (C).