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New Zealand Power Past Fiji To Set Up Final With Solomon Islands

A flurry of late goals in the first-half put New Zealand well on their way to a place in the final of the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Oceania Qualifier after a 7-1 victory over Fiji in Apia.

A hat-trick from Grace Jale, alongside braces each from Jacqueline Hand and the excellent Indiah-Paige Riley ensured that the Kiwis will meet the Solomon Islands in Monday’s final.

Jitka Klimková’s side were a little sluggish in the opening stages of the first period but were still able to establish a two goal lead with strikes from Riley and Hand giving them a platform to build upon.

Fiji – who finished second in their group following a 3-1 defeat to the Solomon Islands earlier in the week – were hoping to spring an upset but three goals scored in first-half stoppage time put paid to any hopes of a shock and all-but-settled matters before the break.

Just six minutes were on the clock when Riley gave her side the lead. Taking advantage of an excellent break down the right from Jacqueline Hand to sweep home from eight yards out.

The second arrived within the half hour and was an almost carbon copy – this time the roles reversed as Riley set-up Hand, who did well to control her side-footed effort into the top corner.

Fiji had their fair share of possession but struggled once finding themselves in the final third. Elesi Tabunase’s low effort from distance easily held by Anna Leat as Angelina Chua’s side tried to turn the tide.

With the half coming to a close, the Fijians would have been desperate to keep the score to two heading into the interval but suffered a number of lapses in concentration at the back, conceding three more times within the final minutes of the first period.

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Grace Jale took advantage of a mistimed jump from goalkeeper Selai Tikoisuva to head into an unguarded net following Mickey Foster’s looping cross, before Hand grabbed her second from close range following neat build-up play from Katie Bowen and Indiah-Paige Riley.

Riley then grabbed her second of the day, this time arriving almost completely unmarked in the box to finish Grace Jale’s cross from the right to all but confirm the result inside 45 minutes.

Within minutes of the restart Fiji were forced into a change in goal. Tikoisuva succuming to injury having just made a superb save to deny Riley her hat-trick. Seruwaia Vasuitoga came off the bench to take over the gloves in the 50th minute.

Fiji had shown a improved resolve in the second period but were eventually undone by Grace Jale again. The forward finishing from within a yard out after substitute Katie Kitching headed the ball across the face of goal, making it easy for Jale to grab her second of the afternoon.

Hanah Wilkinson – another second-half change – almost added a seventh when given time and space in the inside-right channel but her well-struck effort flew wide of the far post.

Wilkinson played her part in the eventual seventh only moments later however. The striker won her header from Mickey Foster’s cross – the ball looping to the back post where Jale duly converted to complete her hat-trick from inside the six-yard box.

There was a glimmer of joy for Fiji to cling on to in stoppage-time. Cema Nasau taking advantage of a loose ball in the New Zealand area to break between defenders and finish underneath Anna Leat, scoring the first goal that the Kiwis have conceded in this tournament.

Jitka Klimková and her side can now look forward to a final date with the Solomon Islands on Monday, with a place at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris up for grabs.

New Zealand: 7 (Indiah-Paige RILEY 6’, 45+6’, Jacqueline HAND 24’, 45+4’, Grace JALE 45+2’, 67, 83)

Fiji: 1 (Cema NASAU 90+3)

HT: 5-0

© Scoop Media

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