Fiji have overcome Samoa in a tight contest to reach the Final of OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2023 with a 3-1 victory at HFC Bank Stadium.
Two late first-half goals, first from Sonia Alfred and then from substitute Timaima Ana set the stage for a Fiji victory and ensured that the host nation side will play in Saturday’s Final.
Samoa had enjoyed much of the possession and territory in the first period but had failed to create much in the way of clearcut chances. Arianna Skeers floated free-kick straight into the arms of Fiji goalkeeper Mereseini Waqali the only real test for the Fiji No.1
The killer third goal came with a little over twenty minutes remaining, when the outstanding Preeya Singh found space 25 yards from goal and with time to get a shot off, lifted her effort over and out of the reach of Viliamu to give Fiji a third and rubber stamp their passage to Saturday’s Final.
A consolation goal did arrive via the penalty spot. Arianna Skeers, arguably Samoa’s best player on the day was upended in the box and took it upon herself to take the resulting kick, side-footing high into the top corner to give her side a glimmer of hope.
Meanwhile, New Zealand will defend their OFC U-19 Women’s Championship against Fiji on Saturday evening after overcoming a predictably tough and resolute Cook Islands side 5-0 at HFC Bank Stadium.
Cook Islands, who overcame Vanuatu in the Quarter-Finals, have enjoyed an incredible run to the final four and showed their trademark resolve, holding out New Zealand for the opening quarter of the match in Suva.
New Zealand’s dominance took its’ toll and the Kiwis found the opening goal through an unfortunate own goal from Tearoa Rouru. After Colpi had this time successfully rounded Uini, her shot ricocheted off the post and into the backtracking Rouru before nestling in the corner.
A second arrive minutes later when Colpi, again at the heart of the New Zealand attack, found space on the left-hand side before playing the ball across the face of goal for Emma Pijnenburg to hook high into the net.
New Zealand added one further strike before the half-time whistle when Lara Colpi was found by substitute Zoe Benson, finishing at the second attempt after being denied initially by another outstanding Uini block.
It took until the 70th minute for New Zealand to add to their total. Substitute Ruby Nathan, who was been impressive against Solomon Islands in the Quarter-Final, found herself one-on-one with Uini after fellow sub Ella McMillan’s through ball was deflected into her path, making no mistake as she slid the ball under the onrushing keeper.
Colpi rattled the crossbar from a Nathan cut-back before Nathan crossed low for Kiara Bercelli to get her name on the scoresheet. Player of the Match Uini still had time to add to her repertoire of saves denying Nathan at the death, blocking her volley from yards out.