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U20 on track

Arin Kumar
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

THE Vodafone Fiji under-20 side remains on track to qualify for the FIFA U20 World Cup, thanks to their 3-0 win over Papua New Guinea yesterday.

It was another superb performance from the youngsters who ensured Fiji continued its winning run in the OFC U20 Championship and managed to keep another clean sheet.

That makes it three wins in a row for the Ravinesh Kumar-coached side and with two games remaining, they sit on pole position with nine points.

At first they found it hard to break through the stubborn PNG defence but when they did, there was no stopping them. Ba man Praneel Naidu showed his class time and again when he made numerous breaks down the flanks to provide beautiful crosses but the finishing element from the strikers was missing.

However, after 43 minutes, one of Naidu's trademark crosses found Altaaf Sahib in the box and the New Zealand-based forward was lucky enough to deflect the ball into the net for the opening goal.

With Fiji up by 1-0 at the breather, Kumar told his players at the half-time break to make better use of their possession and score more goals.

Ten minutes into the second-half, and it was Mataisi Toma who connected to a Narend Rao-cross to put the ball into the back of the PNG net for a 2-0 lead.

Then play slowed down as fatigue from playing against two quality sides — American Samoa and New Caledonia — took its toll on the Fijian players.

But then another break through the middle of the PNG defence allowed Ashnil Raju to make a casual pass to Saula Waqa who found the net once again past PNG goalkeeper Gibson Jimmy.

Rao was shown a yellow card in the dying stages of the match for deliberately slowing play but it didn't have any impact on the final score-line.

Kumar said now they would need to recover before they turned their focus on their next opponents, Vanuatu.

"Now the next one is Vanuatu and we aim to do our best and win that one as well," he said.

"PNG was tougher (than previous opponents) and our plan worked, we played the ball, we had possession but the goal was not coming and then we finally created the chances and then the goals came.

"They (players) have played three 90-minute games and any team would be tired and we have plans for recovery."

Meanwhile, team captain Jale Dreloa, who was injured in Fiji's 2-0 win over New Caledonia on Sunday, is expected to recover by this afternoon and feature in the starting line-up against Vanuatu tomorrow.





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