|NZ beat PNG 7 - 1|
In scorching heat and humidity New Zealand were patient, but unrelenting, as they got their bid to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games underway at the Papua New Guinea Football Academy this afternoon.
With a precise job to do, to get the win, coach Tony Readings says his side did exceptionally well considering the conditions.
“It’s never easy coming here as PNG always come, they always fight and never give up. We were 7-0 up but they never stopped and got a goal from that hard work,” he says.
“The temperatures here as well, I think it’s the hottest it’s been for us in 10 years and the highest temperatures we’ve ever played in. But we didn’t stop, we kept playing, kept trying to score and never took our foot off the pedal either.
“I’m really happy with the win and really happy with the performance as well.”
The New Zealanders took their time establishing the rhythm of the game, playing out from the back and looking for ways to get in behind the Papua New Guinea defence.
Annalie Longo, who was outstanding for the Ferns today, dominated the midfield and the added width provided by Ali Riley and Ria Percival helped make things especially difficult their opponents.
A classy set-piece from New Zealand on the 20 minute-mark was sent high into the box by Percival, dropping in front of goal for Amber Hearn to tuck away. It only took the Ferns a couple of minutes to hit in a second with Rebekah Stott adding her name to the scoresheet.
The third goal came a further five minutes later as New Zealand’s continued pressure in the middle resulted in Longo adding some individual mastery to the match, taking a couple of touches before unleashing a cracker shot past a helpless Fidelma Watpore in goal for the home side.
In just her second appearance for the senior side, newbie Aimee Phillips got a well-deserved goal as she tapped in a cross at the back post to take New Zealand to a four-goal lead going into the break.
Less than ten minutes into the second half Longo was back leading the goal scoring charge with another solo effort resulting in New Zealand’s fifth goal of the match. Captain Abby Erceg headed in a free kick, while the seventh goal was a close range volley from Hearn.
Second-half substitute Meagan Gunemba broke past the Ferns defence with 12 minutes remaining in the match to nick a consolation goal for her side. While Papua New Guinea never gave up despite falling so far behind, it all proved too little too late as the Football Ferns now take a 7-1 advantage into Leg 2 in Auckland, New Zealand in three days’ time.
For Papua New Guinea coach Rachel Wadunah it’s obviously disappointing for her side not to get the win on home soil as it makes the second leg that much harder.
However she says overall she was pleased with the players and the way they approached a difficult challenge.
“I’m very pleased with my girls. Although New Zealand were a better team my girls played right from the beginning to the end and never gave up,” Wadunah says.
“I was also very impressed with my substitutes, they went in there and made an impact. There are certain good things they did in there but there are also things we need to work on.”
The second leg of the 2016 OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier Stage 2 Play-Off will take place at QBE Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand on Tuesday 26 January, with kick-off at 7.30pm.