Fiji will play Tahiti in the semi-finals of the OFC Futsal Nations Cup 2023 after outlasting Vanuatu in their final Group A fixture.
Two goals in the first-half set up the Fijians for victory in a match that was low on chances but high on intensity with so much on the line.
8 minutes were on the clock when Tevita Waranaivalu gave Fiji a precious lead. Driving down the right-hand side, his low effort beat goalkeeper Anthony Quai at the near post to break the deadlock.
Two minutes passed before the lead was doubled. A wonderful flowing counter-attack ended with Setareki Hughes one-on-one with the ‘keeper and he calmly slotted the ball home to give Fiji a crucial second and leave Vanuatu in considerable trouble.
As well as their two goals, Fiji were heavily indebted to goalkeeper Emori Ragata, who made a string of excellent saves to keep his side ahead as the match wore on.
There was nothing that Ragata could do however with 8 minutes remaining, as Jayson Timatua muscled in ahead of the defence and headed in from close range to reduce the deficit.
Kemly Lehi had two excellent chances late on, the first lifted just over the bar on the angle before his right-footed effort sliced just wide of the far post.
Steve Nona came agonisingly close to scoring Vanuatu’s equaliser with an outrageous effort from the touchline that thundered off the underside of the crossbar and somehow avoided crossing the line before bouncing away to safety – ensuring Fiji’s semi-final berth.
Vanuatu: 1 (Jayson TIMATUA 32′)
Fiji: 2 (Tevita WARANAIVALU 8′, Setareki HUGHES 10′)