Mixed results in opening internationals

A disappointed Fiji have work to do following their opening loss to Philippines. Image: Lisa Cole
A disappointed Fiji have work to do following their opening loss to Philippines. Image: Lisa Cole

Papua New Guinea put in a strong shift to beat Seychelles 9-0 in the first of two tri-series matches, while Fiji were given a rough introduction to the international scene going down 7-2 to the Philippines.

Fiji played their first international under new head coach Lisa Cole on Thursday evening at the Western Sydney Wanderers field in Sydney, Australia against a side which recently qualified for its first FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Philippines were playing their first match since the AFC Women’s Asian Cup in February, while Fiji haven’t been in action since the 2019 Pacific Games in Samoa.

It took just 13 minutes for Filipinas birthday girl Quinley Quezada to open the scoring with Anicka Castañeda providing the assist. Castañeda then turned goalscorer when she headed home a cross from Malea Cesar four minutes later.

Fiji failed to clear a set piece allowing Dominique Randle to get on the scoresheet before the Philippines captain Tahnai Annis scored twice in quick succession to give her side a 6-0 lead ahead of the second half.

Fiji struck back when the second half got underway through Labasa striker Cema Nasau and a second came in the 63rd minute through 19-year-old Adi Anasimeci Volitikoro.

Quezada struck for her second of the evening in the 79th minute, sealing a 7-2 win for the Philippines and plenty for Fiji to work on ahead of the second encounter between the two sides.

Philippines coach, Australian Alen Stajcic was pleased with a victory but believed his side had more to give.

“The result was one thing but we’re looking at our performance. There were some good patches, some good moments but we were rusty in some parts just because players were out for two months, not training in a team environment,” he said.

“Overall it’s a good starting point for us.”

For Cole, the team is learning and growing with each match they play and the performances in two warm ups matches against club sides proved a starting point for the Fiji to build on.

“The warm up matches were to test our players and see how they adapt the way we want to play before we take on the Philippines,” Cole said ahead of the Philippines encounter.

“I am not happy with the results in our warm up matches but it was a good learning point for our team.”

As for the result, Cole felt the effort was the key take away from match one.

“Yes, the result was 7-2 but very proud of the team’s effort,” she said on Twitter.

“Down 6-0 at the half, come back in the second to score two. Proud of the response and improvements made over the course of the game. Not there yet, but headed in the right direction.”

Papua New Guinea, meanwhile, made the most of the opportunity to get their first run since winning a fifth consecutive gold medal at the 2019 Pacific Games.

The opening goal came via an own goal after some confusion with the clearance at the near post from the Seychelles. Marie Kaipu then got on the scoresheet with a tidy finish.

A series of well worked passes into the 18 yard box was neatly tucked between the keeper and the post by Yvonne Gabong for PNG’s third just ahead of the break.

Kaipu had her brace early in the second half before Lae-based Meagan Gunemba put one away to give the Pacific Queens a 5-0 lead. Ramona Padio got herself a brace, while Sagude Zale of Tusbab Laidamon FC and Sonia Embahe both scored their first senior goals.

Papua New Guinea went into the tri-series with very little match preparation, having lost a practice match on home soil 4-2 to the Port Moresby Strikers youth team.

However with an ambitious goal of qualifying for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 being held in Australia and New Zealand, Nicola Demaine is just pleased to see her players getting minutes against international opponents.

Fiji will play their second encounter against Philippines on April 11th, with the match to be live streamed on the Philippine Women’s National Team facebook page: PilipinasWNFT

Papua New Guinea’s next game will be against their hosts Singapore the same day, at Jalan Besar Stadium, this match will also be live streamed on the Singapore facebook page: Singapore Football

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