March 25, 2017
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NZ edge past Fiji in World Cup Qualifier

A second half penalty and a gifted goal let Fiji down against New Zealand in their 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier at Lautoka’s Churchill Park today.

Playing in front of a large crowd, the Fijians did not fail to impress in the first half and displayed some constructive, one touch football with striker Setareki Hughes and midfielder Dave Radrigai missing good scoring chances.

Debutants Epeli Saukuru and Kavaia Rawaqa were impressive also and launched some good attacks while goalkeeper Benaminio Mateinaqara made three good saves to keep a clean sheet at the break.

New Zealand received a penalty two minutes after the restart as defender Peniame Drova slipped while making a clearance in the air and the ball touched his arm in the process.

Captain Chris Wood calmly placed the ball into the back of the net to give the Kiwis a 1-0 lead.

A blunder by goalkeeper Mateinaqara in the 55th minute gifted New Zealand its second goal as a back pass by Taniela Waqa was fumbled by the keeper and Melbourne Victory striker Marco Rojas intercepted the ball and placed it into an empty net.

Fijian Captain Roy Krishna toiled hard to get on the score-sheet but a couple of good saves from keeper Stefan Marinovic denied him the opportunity.

Coach Christophe Gamel handed international debuts to New Zealand based Rinal Prasad and James Hoyt midway in the second spell but their introduction had very little impact as New Zealand managed to cling on and register the important win.

With the result, New Zealand now only needs a draw to secure its place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia OFC Stage 3 final.

The two nations meet in the second leg at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Tuesday night.

The teams:

Vodafone Fiji- Benaminio Mateinaqara, Kavaia Rawaqa, Dave Radrigai (Rinal Prasad), Epeli Saukuru, Setareki Hughes, Roy Krishna (C),  Remueru Tekiate (Jone Vesikula), Osea Vakatalesau (James Hoyt), Peniame Drova,  Kolinio Sivuki, Taniela Waqa.

New Zealand- Stefan Marinovic, Deklan Wynne, Themistoklis Tzimopoulos (Tommy Smith), Michael Boxall, Bill Tuiloma (Ryan Thomas), Michael McGlinchey, Christopher Wood (C), Marco Rojas, Clayton Lewis (Shane Smeltz), Kip Colvey, Andrew Durante.

Referee: Nobert Hauata (Tahiti).

By Reginald Chandar

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