Fiji have beaten the Solomon Islands 3-0 in the second semi-final at the OFC Men’s Olympic qualifier tournament in Auckland.
Coach Rob Sherman’s side will face New Zealand in Saturday night’s final at North Harbour Stadium after Darren Bazeley’s New Zealand overran Vanuatu 8-0 in the first semi-final.
Captain Etonia Dogalau was the hero for the Fijians, scoring twice, one in each half, to help secure passage through to the final where his side will attempt to qualify for the Olympics for the second time, having represented Oceania at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Dogalau’s second goal 20 minutes from time came against the run of play after the Solomon Islands had laid siege to the Fiji goal since the second-half restart.
Main photo: Fiji’s Etonia Dogalau is mobbed by teammates after scoring his second goal. Photo credit: OFC / Shane Wenzlick / Phototek.
Hudyn Irodao unleashed a spectacular shot from outside the 18-yard box that forced Fijian goalkeeper Aydin Mustahib to tip the ball over the crossbar almost immediately after the restart.
Junior Rocky then headed onto the crossbar before Javin Wae drove the rebound just wide of the upright as Eddie Marahare’s side turned up the heat on Fiji.
Calvin Ohasio rose high to direct a header just past the post with 30 minutes remaining, and Fiji were living dangerously.
Mustahib tipped the ball over the bar from another probing corner as the Solomon Islands continued to press for the equaliser but somehow Fiji’s defence held firm.
Then came the decisive moment as Nabil Begg won possession down the left and crossed inside the box for Dogalau to side-foot into the net for the two-goal buffer.
Begg was then put through one-on-one and could have made sure of the result late on but was denied by Junior Petua in the Solomon Islands goal.
Brendan McMullen did, however, put the icing on the cake for Fiji, scoring his side’s third goal in the 89th minute.
Earlier, it had been an even start to the match with a tightly contested opening 20 minutes producing no clear-cut scoring opportunities for either side.
Dogalau opened the scoring in the 25th minute with a towering free header on the six-yard box, unmarked following a corner. It was a delightful cross from Begg who provided the assist.
Dogalau almost turned provider six minutes later when he turned the ball into the box for Aporosa Yada to run onto, but Petua got there just ahead of the Fijian attacker.
Yada then should have extended Fiji’s lead five minutes before the break when his diving header cleared the crossbar from close range. The Solomon Islands mustered their first shot on target in first half injury time, but it was fired straight at Mustahib.
Acknowledgement: Match report provided by OFC Media.
Game played on Wednesday September 6, 2023
Fiji 3 (Etonia Dogalau 25′, 70′, Brendan McMullen 89′)
Solomon Islands 0
Game to be play on Saturday September 9, 2023
New Zealand v Fiji
North Harbour Stadium, Albany, 7pm