Vanuatu came from behind to hold Fiji to a 2-all draw in the opening match of the Extra Supermarket Melanesian Futsal Cup 2023 at the Vodafone Arena in Suva today.
Fiji coach Jerry Sam fielded two debutants Edwin Sahayam and Ratu Dau while Vanuatu had the services of former Suva midfielder Ronaldo Wilkins.
Both teams applied pressure from the first whistle in the match but Vanuatu failed to match the pace and speed of Fiji in the opening half.
Dau came off the bench in place of Vineet Nand and got the opener for the Fijians after a power play from experienced Ramzan Khan in the 4th minute.
Five minutes later, Khan brought the Fijian fans to their feet following through a Sahayam right cross in the 9th minute Vanuatu goalkeeper Anthony Quai misjudged.
In the 18th minute, Vanuatu was awarded a free kick after Fijian Skipper Filipe Baravilala fouled Vanuatu’s Bill Tamuri.
Michel Coulon took the free kick but it was cleared away by Singh.
Both teams continued to tussle hard and a minute later, Tamuri set up an unmarked Kemly Lehi, who blasted his right foot into the net while Singh kept laying down on the ground.
With just 17 seconds to go, Vanuatu was again awarded a free kick which Coulon took but this time Sahayam was alert and kicked the ball out of play.
Fiji led by 2-1 at the break.
Vanuatu came out firing in the second spell and countered Fiji from all aspects in the remaining 20 minutes.
Coming off the bench, Mansen Riri created huge depth in Vanuatu’s midfield as his wide cross was closely read by Lehi and a defensive error from Fiji allowed him to power right into the net in the 26th minute.
After five fouls by Vanuatu, Fiji was awarded a penalty which Bruce Hughes took but Quai punched the ball away in the 35th minute.
In the remaining five minutes of the match, goalscorer Khan was taken out of the court after he sustained a forehead injury and Nandan got back on the court.
Vanuatu’s Rhyley Napau snatched the player of the match.
Fiji: Ravinesh Anand Singh (GK), Filipe Baravilala (C), Vineet Nadan, Ramzan Khan, Bruce Hughes, Kitione Baleloa, Rajneel Singh, Edwin Sahayam, Prashant Chand, Ronish Singh, Ratu Dau, Aman Naidu, Kavinesh lal, Aiyum Ashish Kumar.
Vanuatu: Anthony Quai, Michel Coulon (C), Kevin Donald, Kemly lehi, Rhydley Napau, Antonio Norman, Kerol Alex, Yassin Berukilukilu, Sandy Mesau, Mansen Riri, Bill Tamuri, Ronaldo Wilkins.