Match 24: Fiji vs New Caledonia (Men's Gold)

Manoa was on the end of a delightful cross by Esala in the first half to put Fiji up 1-0 at half-time. Then nearly twenty minutes into the second half, Esala clinched victory with a sensational 35 metre goal from a free kick on the left side which went around the wall and slid past the outstretched New Caledonia goal keeper Michel Hne.
New Caledonia never got into their attacking groove and was out of sync from a combination of fierce defensive pressure the Fijians subjected them to and the slippery conditions caused by heavy rain prior to kick-off which lasted twenty minutes and kept many spectators away from the game as a result. The final was also televised live on Fiji TV but still a crowd of around 8 to 10,000 turned up to watch the match.
According to Competition Manager, Bob Kumar, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Fiji Football Association, the late weather condition forced away many people as there is limited covered seating available and the majority of spectators sat on the embankments.
It was hoped the match would attract a similar crowd to the 20,000 that had reportedly attended the 1979 South Pacific Games football final which is the unofficial crowd attendance record for the Games.
Fiji coach Tony Buesnel was understandably ecstatic afterwards and emotional scenes were seen from the spectators, players and officials alike. Buesnel expressed his delight at the victory capping of over a month of matches where the team improved and matured with each performance.
His New Caledonia counterpart was disappointed but happy his team made the final to gain respect. The coach Serge Martinengo De Novack had led his team to upsets over Tahiti, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu en route to the final and came close to increasing his country's already bountiful medal tally at the Games. But the team which had played some attractive football in the lead-up games was shut down by Fiji's physical and aerial superiority. The slippery underfoot conditions hampered New Caledonia's passing game while Fiji excelled with their speed on the flanks, utilising crosses and long balls to take advantage of their height. New Caledonia dangermen, Ramon Djamali and Michel Hmae were played out of the game as a result while captain, Jean-Marc Case had to work over time in coordinating the last line of defence against the taller Fijians.
Another factor helping Fiji was the support they got from playing at home and in front of vocal supporters they rose to the occasion and dispelled the patchy form of late to finally bring everything together when it counted. The presence of Esala Masi - Fiji's only player currently in Australia's National Soccer League - also proved crucial. His goal scoring exploits made him the co-leading goal scorer in the South Pacific Games with ten strikes matched only by the Solomon Islands marksman Commins Menapi whose team bowed out in the group rounds.
The Fiji Football Association also poured massive support into their team offering monetary incentives for the players after each victory which was a good gesture, albeit compensation, to the players who have devoted their time to being with the team and sacrificing other personal and family commitments for the past seven months. It was Fiji's second South Pacific Games title since the Games started in 1963. Fiji last won gold in 1991.

Fulltime: 2-0 Fiji
Halftime: 1-0 Fiji
Kick-off: 7:00pm
Venue: National Stadium, Suva
Crowd: 10,000 Weather: rain, humid

Goals scorers:
6. Manoa Masi (FIJ) 30'
12. Esala Masi (FIJ) 63'

Cautions: 17. Seveci Rokotakala (FIJ) 71'; 12. Esala Masi (FIJ) 83'; 8. Emosi Baleinuku (FIJ) 84'; 16. Andre Sinedo (NCL) 58'; 12. Frank Oiremoin (NCL) 82'

Match Officials:
Referee: Harry Attison (Vanuatu)
Assistant Referee 1: Michel Angot (Tahiti)
Assistant Referee 2: Hillary Ani (PNG)
Fourth Official: Charles Ariiotima (Tahiti)
Match Commissioner: Tautulu Roebeck (Samoa)
Referee Inspector: Hari Naicker (Fiji)

Team Lists:
1. Simione M Tamanisau (GK)
2. Lorima Dau
6. Manoa Masi (-73')
7. Malakai Kainihewe (-79')
9. Thomas Vulivuli
10. Ratu Veresa Toma
12. Esala Masi
13. Taniela Waqa
15. Salesh Kumar
17. Seveci Rokotakala (-86')
18. Peni Pononi
3. Ratu Marika Rodu
4. Waisake Sabutu
5. Luke Vidovi
8. Emosi Baleinuku (+79')
11. Pita Biri Rabo (+73')
14. Ronald Ram
16. Harris Bali
19. Laisiasa Gatarua (+86')
20. Afroz Nabi
21. Ratu Baledrokadroka

New Caledonia:
1. Michel Hne
2. Jean Marc-Case
3. Maurice Cawa
5. Ramon Djamali
7. Gil Elmour (-78')
8. Michel Hmae
10. Benjamin Logue
15. Paul Poatinda (-57')
16. Andre Sinedo
17. Wiako Jacky (-46')
18. Pierre Wajoka
4. Dahote Jacques
6. Dokunengo Oliver
9. Kabel Lameu (+57')
11. Joseph Luenu (+78')
12. Frank Oiremoin (+46')
13. Ouka Nicolas
14. Pian Theodore
19. Francis Watrone
20. Louis Samek
21. Eric Elmour


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