Host nation Fiji will face Papua New Guinea in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 final after beating the Solomon Islands 3-1 in front of a passionate home crowd at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva.
Cema Nasau’s first-half double and Luisa Tamanitoakula’s second-half finish secured the semi-final triumph for the Kulas, after Ileen Pegi’s penalty had given the Solomon Islands the lead.
The Solomon Islands needed a penalty to draw 1-1 with Fiji during the group stage and 10 minutes in they were once again given the chance to score against the hosts from 12 yards.
Maria Veronika’s high boot challenge felled Jemina David and, just as she did in the previous meeting, Solomon Islands captain Ileen Pegi dispatched the spot-kick to open the scoring.
Fiji were not trailing for long, with their boisterous supporters soon having reason to cheer of their own at a raucous HFC Bank Stadium.
Trina Davis, just moments after dragging her own opportunity wide, delivered a pinpoint cross onto the head of Nasau who nodded the equaliser beyond Solomons goalkeeper Corrina Rotoava.
Nasau, one of the stars of the tournament so far, then gave Fiji the lead with a superbly taken second goal.
Koleta Likuculacula demonstrated excellent link-up play with the goalscorer before Nasau’s nimble footwork deceived her marker, giving her space to fire home and give Fiji the lead.
Diyalowai and Likuculacula had chances to stretch the host nation’s lead early in the second period while the Solomon Islands also came desperately close to levelling the score, Pegi’s long-range strike hitting the crossbar.
Fiji substitute Anasimeci Volitikoro snatched at two perfect chances before the Solomons again came close to equalising, this time David’s one-on-one effort well saved by the advancing Fiji goalkeeper Seruwaia Vasuitoga.
With the game now stretched, a chaotic moment between Rotoava and her defenders nearly gifted Fiji super-sub Tamanitoakula an open goal.
But she did not have to wait long for another chance as another moment of confusion at the back allowed Tamanitoakula to score Fiji’s third and ensure victory for the Kulas.
The Solomon Islands will now face Samoa in the third/fourth playoff. Fiji, for the second Women’s Nations Cup in succession, are into the final where they will face top-ranked Papua New Guinea on Saturday.
Fiji head coach Lisa Cole said: “It is going to take a team effort (to win the final) which has been the case the whole tournament.
“Really, everybody needs to give what they can, stay with the gameplan, make sure they know their role, do their role well and make sure they keep their agreements.
“If we do those things well we are going to be a tough team to beat but we have also got to defend really well against a good Papua New Guinea squad.”
Solomon Islands head coach Batram Suri said: “We are underdogs and we have come this far so we are proud and I think the players are happy about where we are now.
“It is a stepping stone for us now especially as a country that were bottom of the ranking. So I am proud of the result but not happy with it.”
Fiji 3 (Cema NASAU 15’, 28’, Luisa TAMANITOAKULA 83’)
Solomon Islands 1 (Ileen PEGI 10’ pen)