Group A: Match 5 - Fiji beats PNG 4-1

SYDNEY: Fiji defeated an exhausted Papua New Guinea 4-1 in the opening match of round three at Marconi Stadium last night.

The Fijians were simply a class above their Melanesian rivals and were rarely troubled in what was, in the end, a comfortable victory.

The Papua New Guineans were at the tail end of a demanding schedule that has seen them play three matches in five days and that was evident in their lackluster performance.

A goal in each half to Thomas Vulivuli, one of the finds of the tournament so far, and one a piece to Esala Ali and youngster Osea Vakatalesau saw the men in white produce the identical score line that saw off the Solomon Islands two days earlier.

A freak goal, which was attributed to Nathaniel Lepani, got PNG to within a one only minutes after the interval, but aside from this, PNG seldom threatened the Fijian goal.

Fijian coach, Billy Singh, made two changes to the side that trounced the Solomon Islands, choosing to rest trump card Veresa Toma and fullback Alvin Avinesh.

The changes made no difference to the cohesion that was evident in Fiji's play against the Solomon Islands, as it became apparent in the opening minutes that life was going to be tough for PNG.

The sheer pace of Fiji, in particular midfielder Esala Ali, was unsettling PNG and Vulivuli's opener on 22 minutes was just reward for a strong opening quarter from Singh's men.

The Suva striker was on the receiving end of a tidy through ball from Vakatalesau and made no mistake one on one with PNG custodian Richard Lapan.

Ali's goal on 33 minutes was scored in almost identical fashion to the goal before it.
PNG's seven-man defense was simply overwhelmed by the consistency in which Fiji was sending runners through on goal and a slight defensive lapse was all it took.

Ali had only to burst onto a through ball, following a blunder from Ricky Mesak, and round the PNG `keeper to give Fiji a 2-0 lead going into half time.

A PNG fight back was not looking promising, until, out of nowhere, they pulled one back just minutes after the restart.

Lepani, one of PNG's most consistent performers this tournament, floated in a regulation cross that was turned past Fiji `keeper Simione Tamanisau by defender Jone Vesikula.

At 2-1, Papua New Guinea was right back in the game, although still a way off looking like snatching an equaliser.

Fiji regained the ascendancy when 17-year-old Vakatalesau slotted home after calmly dancing through a selection of PNG defenders.

When Vulivuli headed in Salesh Kumar's free kick on 71 minutes, Fiji had well and truly secured all three points.

Although they did look much better against the Solomons, Fiji once again did show that they have the talent to trouble the Aussies, if not, snatch a monumental victory.

They next face Samoa in two days time in what will be their final hit out before Thursday's crunch match with Australia.

Papua New Guinea can look forward to a three-day break before also taking on Samoa in what will be their final chance to take some point's home from this tournament. - By Ben Coonan

Match 5: Fiji vs Papua New Guinea / Statistical Review

Full-time score: 4-1 (Fiji)
Half-time score: 2-0 (Fiji)

Date/Time: Sunday, 18 January - 5:00pm (AEST)

Fiji - (9) Thomas Vulivuli 22', 70'; (12) Esala Ali 32'; (14) Osea Vakatalesau 54
PNG - (10) Nathaniel Lapani 47

Cautions: (12) Esala Ali 20'
Expulsions: none

Weather: Overcast, light winds, cool
Crowd attendance: 200

Match Officials:
Referee: Peter O'Leary (New Zealand)
Assistant Referee 1: Tony Maltetamat (Vanuatu)
Assistant Referee 2: Tevita Vea (Tonga)
Fourth Official: Ron Wilbur (Vanuatu)

Match Commissioner: `Ahongalu Fusimalohi (Tonga)
Referee Inspector: Barry Such (Australia)

Team Line-ups (& Substitutes)
1. Simione Tamanisau (gk)
2. Lorima Dau (-81')
5. Luke Vidovi (-81')
6. Jone Vesikula
7. Pene Erenio
9. Thomas Vulivuli
12. Esala Ali (-47')
13. Taniela Waqa
14. Osea Vakatalesau
15. Salesh Kumar
18. Laisiasa Gataurua
3. Ratu Marika Rodu
4. Alvin Avinesh
8. Waisake Sabutu
10. Veresa Ratu Toma
11. Jesoni Takala (+47')
16. Petero Dauniseka (+81')
17. Samuela Vula (+81')
19. Nicholas Lawrence
20. Afroz Nabi (RGK)

Coach : Billy Singh

20. Richard Lapan (GK)
5. Brian Tuhiana
6. Alexander Davani (c)
10. Nathaniel Lepani
13. Russell Inai
14. Armstrong Peka
15. Nathaniel Pomat (-45')
16. Kialou Porou
18. Eric Komeng
21. Chique Posman (-28')
22. Ricky Mesak
1. Ludwig Bai (RGK)
4. Ravu Habuka (+45')
7. Sovera Guti
8. Abraham Enoch
9. Richard Sios (+74')
12. Adrian Komu
17. Maurie Wasi (+28') (-74')
19. Selan Lelai

Coach: Robert Popat


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