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Mind games fail

Manoj Kumar
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

AFTER Fiji's stunning 3-0 win over England top division football club Newcastle United in Nadi (as your read in yesterday's edition), all eyes were on the second showdown two days later at the National Stadium in Suva.

The visitors made a few changes and even Paul "Gazza" Gascoigne was rested.

Newcastle coach Willie McFaul promised "a different display" in Suva after claiming that "the heat and timing" had taken its toll on his players at Prince Charles Park.

They were on their way back from playing six games in New Zealand in 16 days.

Four of those were games against the New Zealand national team, the All Whites.

Amazingly, while Fiji swept to a 3-0 win, the Kiwis struggled against the English men. United won three (2-1, 3-2 and 4-0) and drew one (2-2).

The wily Peter Beardsley netted both goals for United in the draw.

Having an unbeaten record from the Land of the Long White Cloud tarnished in Nadi, McFaul and his men were out to jet back home with a win.

Mind games

Fiji coach Billy Singh tried to play mind games with his counterpart. In his preview to the game, Singh said he would field "several new faces" in the starting 11.

He said having won the first game, he did not have anything else to prove and it was best that he focussed on "the upcoming three internationals against New Zealand".

"I have a lot to lose if we do not do well in New Zealand," the late Singh said.

He named youth rep Faizal Anwar Shah, goalkeeper Suka Tuba, defenders Mohammed Aiyub, Kini Tubi, midfielders Vimal Sami, Tony Kabakoro and striker Akuila Rova as those set to get a start.

But when the Fiji team ran out at the National Stadium in front of 10,000 fans on May 28, 1985, it was obvious that Singh had something else up his sleeve.

One change

The defence was the same, Savenaca Waqa as keeper with skipper Stan Morrell, Abraham Watkins, Henry Dyer, Kaverieli Salesi and Abdul Mannan in front of him.

There was only one change with Suva's Kabakoro coming in for Rusiate Waqan.

Singh's tactics changed a little as well with Kabakoro, Meli Vuilabasa, Kelemedi "Cheetah" Vosuga in midfield with Sam Work tracking back to help out.

This meant that Ivor Evans was often the lone man upfront whenever Fiji had possession.

The first half was even and although United were looking more cohesive compared to their outing in Nadi, they still could not breach the Fijian defence in the first 45 minutes.

Fiji had a couple of chances as well.

Work handled a through pass and also had a volley turned away by Newcastle stopper Martin Thomas.

Two changes

Kabakoro was ineffective and was withdrawn in favour of Waqa while Vosuga limped off hurt in the 67th minute and in came Fiji youth skipper Rova. Just before that Fiji had fallen behind.

After Work fluffed an opportunity after being put through by Evans, New Zealand took the lead through Republic of Ireland international John Anderson, who played 299 top flight games as a defender for Newcastle from 1982-'92.

England ace Gascoigne, then only 18 years old, came on as a substitute to net the winner with a smashing strike late in the game.

The match ended in a 2-0 win for United and they went on to finish 11th in the English First Division (now the English Premier League) in the 1985-86 season.

Quality warm-up

While Fiji's 3-0 win over United in Nadi was something to cherish, it was just as important to get some quality game time ahead of our three-game tour of New Zealand.

Having seen off a team comprising Beardsley and Gascoigne, who would go on to play in World Cup and Euro Championships for England, the Fiji camp was brimming with confidence going into the internationals against the All Whites.

However, the Kiwis, having lost three times to United had a burning desire to make up for that disappointment.

That they did, embarrassing us 5-0, 3-0 and 2-0 in the three showdowns.

While it took United 152 minutes to breach our defence, New Zealand hit us for 10 over 270 minutes with striker Colin Walker scoring five of those.

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