The Vodafone Fiji national side held Solomon Islands 1-1 draw in their first International friendly match at the ANZ Stadium in Suva today.
The Benjamin Totori captained side started the match attacking and fast pace football and in the 22nd minute referee Joel Hoken awarded the visitors a penalty after defender Remueru Takiata was caught handling the ball in the box.
Totori’s stood up to take the spot kick but his attempt was saved by the Fijian Captain and goalkeeper Benaminio Mateinaqara.
Fijian coach Christhope Gamel substituted Ravinesh Karan Singh with Saula Waqa in the 32nd minute to bring more power up front.
In the 35th minute Rewa midfielder Epeli Saukuru netted the opener after receiving a neat pass from Christopher Wasasala from the midfield. The Rewa midfielder found the net from a powerful drive outside the box, taking full advantage of a mistake in defence by the Solomon Islanders.
In the 43rd minute the visitors got another penalty after by Fijian defender Vuniuci Tokoimaimereke foul on striker Micah Lea’alafa.
Lea’alafa neatly placed the ball beyond the reach of the goalkeeper to level scores. Takiate and Christopher Wasasala copped yellow cards in the first half.
The teams utilized their substitutes in the second half to test out the combinations.
Fiji opted to make changes in defence with Laitia Tuilau replacing Vuniuci Tikomaimereke and Iosefo Verevou replacing Kavaia Rawaqa. Madhavan Goundar and young Manav Permal also went off the bench towards the later stages of the match to get their international debut.
The Solomon Islands on the other hand introduced seasoned players like James Naka and Henry Faa’rado to bolster their attack. Faa’rado and Michael Boso missed two good sitters for the Solomon Islands towards the end and a couple of good saves by Mateinaqara between the sticks kept the scores intact.
The two nations will clash for the second time at Lautoka’s Churchill Park on Sunday. The teams: Vodafone Fiji- Benaminio Mateinaqara (C), Vuniuci Tikomaimereke (Laitia Tuilau), Kavaia Rawaqa (Iosefo Verevou), Kolinio Sivoki, Remueru Tekiate, Amani Makoe, Epeli Saukuru, Christopher Wasasala (Madhavan Goundar), Ravinesh Karan Singh (Saula Waqa), Dave Radrigai, Setareki Hughes (Manav Permal). Solomon Islands- Philip Mango, Joachim Waroi (Michael Boso), Robert Laua (John Egeta), Nelson Sale (Henry Faa’rado), Haadis Anegari, Jeffrey Bule, Jerry Lou Donga (Obed Ofea), Timothy Bakale, Benjamin Totori (C) (James Naka), Micah Lea’alafa (Tigi Molea), Gagame Feni. Referee: Joel Hopken (Vanuatu).