Not over yet

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Ashnil Raju of the Digicel Fiji team controls possession during the Bula Boys match against the New Zealand All Whites in Qatar yesterday. Picture: SUPPLIED/OFC MEDIA

The Digicel Bula Boys suffered a disappointing 4-nil loss to the All Whites during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Oceania Qualifiers in Qatar yesterday.

While it was always going to be tough playing against a much fancied New Zealand side, the Roy Krishna-led side took a defensive approach from the first whistle which kept the opponents at bay until the last minute of the first spell.

Just when it looked like the match will be goalless at half-time, New Zealand’s Newcastle United striker Chris Wood headed home from point blank range to give the Kiwis a slender 1-nil lead at the breather.

Fiji coach Flemming Serristlev changed tactics in the second spell as Fiji applied pressure on the New Zealanders’ goalmouth.

This, however, opened gaps in the Fijian defence, which the opponents took full advantage of. Substitute striker Elijah Just blasted in New Zealand’s second goal in the 71st minute from six metres out after the Fijian defence failed to clear a corner kick.

Wood sealed the win two minutes later with a solo effort placing the ball past a helpless Fiji goalkeeper, Alzaar Alam. Alam was then penalised for a foul inside his box.

A soft penalty awarded by the referee but Clayton Lewis took full advantage and added New Zealand’s fourth and final goal for an impressive win.

Fiji’s team manager Anushil Kumar said they lost to a better side.

“The boys gave their best, but I admit New Zealand was a better side,” he said.

“We reminded the boys that it’s not over yet.

“We have a very important match against PNG coming up and it’s a must win situation for us.”

Kumar said they knew the importance of the last pool match.

“All focus is now on our last pool match. The coaching panel has a recovery plan and one more training session to rectify things” Fiji plays its third and final pool match against PNG at 5am on Friday.

Fiji needs a win to qualify for the semi-finals while a draw will be enough to take PNG through.

Teams: Fiji: 1 Mohammed Alam (GK), 3 Muni Shivam Naidu, 5 Remueru Tekiate, 8 Setareki Hughes, 9 Roy Krishna (c), 12 Tevita Waranivalu, 14 Sairusi Nalaubu, 16 Atonio Tuivuna, 18 Lekima Gonerau, 20 Ashnil Raju, 21 Kishan Sami

New Zealand: 1 Oliver Sail GK, 2 Winston Reid (c), 3 Francis De Vries, 4 Nando Pijnaker, 5 Tommy Smith, 6 Clayton Lewis, 7 Kosta Barbarouses, 9 Chris Wood, 10 Marko Stamenic 20 Niko Kirwan, 21 Ben Waine