Vanuatu shock favourites Fiji in international football match

Action from the game between Solomon Islands and FijiU-20s in Lautoka Photo: Fiji Football Association

Action from the game between Solomon Islands and FijiU-20s in Lautoka Photo: Fiji Football Association

Vanuatu upset Fiji in the Tri-nations FIFA International friendly series in Lautoka, Fiji with a 2-1 victory.

Vanuatu’s Johnathan Sesejack scored the opener in the 18th minute before the Bula Boys’ Patrick Joseph equalised four minutes later from the penalty spot.

But shortly after the restart Claude Aru scored what would be Vanuatu’s winner from a free-kick just outside the penalty box.

Vanuatu coach Mermer Etienne said it is always tough playing Fiji in Fiji so they are delighted with the first-up win.

“We respect the Fijian football team. We rate them above us because they are among the best of the island countries.

“We are very grateful to Fiji FA for inviting us to be part of the Tri-nations series. We hardly play internationals so we took the opportunity with both hands when we were invited. It’s always tough to play here so this win means a lot,” Etienne said.

Fiji head coach Marika Rodu admitted they had not performed as well as they could.

“I think we started very well, dictating play. But then they visited our box five times and they scored twice.

“It’s those crucial moments when we lose the ball and our reaction level is very slow. We need to defend well and improve on it before the second match on Thursday.

“Our decision-making in the final third on the attack is also one area we will be working on,” Rodu added.

It was a poor night for Fiji’s footballers on home turf as the national U-20 side also experienced defeat, going down to Solomon Islands’ senior side, 4-1 at Churchill Park.

Abdulla Aiyaz opened the scoring for Fiji with a 40-yard free-kick in the 30th minute.

But the visitors equalised through Adrian Mara in the 44th minute.

Solomon Islands showed their experience in the second spell, netting three times through William Komasi, Mohammed Mekawir and Bobby Leslie.

The second round of matches will be played on Thursday with the senior Fiji side taking on Fiji U-20 first, then Vanuatu face Solomon Islands.

Both matches will be held at the Fiji FA Academy ground in Ba.

Young star makes pro debut

Raphael Lea’i has played his first competitive match for FK Velež Mostar, his new club in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lea’i signed with the club in January, but had to wait for all the paperwork to be completed before he could be eligible for official competitive action.

He came on as a late substitute in his team’s 0-0 draw with Slobada on Sunday in the Bosnian Premijer Liga.

Lea’i is the first player from the Solomon Islands to sign a professional contract in Europe.

Source: RNZ