Papua New Guinea and New Zealand reached the final of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) as their last four encounters at the Sir John Guise Stadium went ahead despite police opening fire on a group of protesters in Port Moresby before the matches were due to take place.
The police in the capital, which was hosting the games between Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands and New Zealand and New Caledonia, wounded at least 17 people who were marching towards the National Parliament in protest against the regime of Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.
Originally, it was claimed there had been fatalities in the incident but these reports were swiftly denied by the Papua New Guinea Government.
The march was part of a series of demonstrations against O’Neill, who is facing allegations of corruption, across the city, with police also reportedly using tear gas to disperse a crowd at the Port Moresby General Hospital.
“A small group of students were violent, threw rocks at police and provoked a response that came in the form of tear gas and warning shots,” O’Neill claimed in a statement.
The OFC issued a statement earlier today confirming the matches would be held at the Sir John Guise Stadium in spite of the unrest and violence in the city.
On the pitch, the host nation booked their place in their first OFC Nations Cup final for 43 years with a 2-1 win over the Solomon Islands.
Michael Foster gave Papua New Guinea a 38th minute lead before the Solomon Islands drew level shortly after through Judd Molea.
Just as the match looked to be heading for extra-time, Nigel Dabingyaba popped up with what proved to be the winning goal late on, sparking scenes of jubilation among the considerable crowd inside the stadium.
“It was my first time leading the boys from PNG in a semi-final and I’m just so happy and so pleased with how well they all performed,” Papua New Guinea David Muta said.
“A big thanks to all our supporters who have been behind us since day one.
“Now I’m going to be captaining the side in the final and that means a lot.
“I think it’s going to be a really big challenge against New Zealand, but we have to stand strong and walk together as a team for the next game.”
Papua New Guinea’s victory came after New Zealand, edged past 2012 runners-up New Caledonia, with Chris Wood scoring the only goal in somewhat farcical circumstances.
Wood floated in a free-kick in the 49th minute which was inadvertently turned into his own net by New Caledonia goalkeeper Jelen Ixolee.
The final between Papua New Guinea and New Zealand will be held on Saturday (June 11).