January 16, 2016

Joy for Tonga while New Zealand win big on Match Day 3

New Zealand maintained their spot at the top of Group A with a commanding 12-0 victory over New Caledonia, while Tonga tasted victory at OFC U-17 Women’s Championship level for the very first time on Match Day 3.

For New Zealand the victory followed an 11-0 defeat of Samoa on Match Day 1, and inches them closer to securing qualification to the semi-finals.

Coach Gareth Turnbull made some changes to his side before the match and was pleased with how they handled the stubborn New Caledonia defensive formation.

“At the start of the game New Caledonia pressed really well which is a credit to them,” Turnbull says.

“We thought we passed well but found it difficult to work in the tight spaces.

“I am really happy with the way we played to be honest, I thought it was really nice to watch.”

Both New Caledonia and New Zealand went into the match off the back of first-up victories, and for the opening 28 minutes New Caledonia did brilliantly to hold out the formidable New Zealand attack.

Some quality saves from keeper Karine Xozame kept the score at 0-0, while New Zealand were also guilty of wasting some chances in front of goal.

But the defending champions finally got their breakthrough just before the half hour mark, as striker Jacqui Hand dribbled past two markers and placed her shot perfectly into the corner of the goal.

They could have doubled the lead just minutes later had it not been for a brave save from Xozame, who got down in front of a sprinting Maggie Jenkins to deny a certain goal.

But Jenkins would soon get the ultimate revenge, first picking off a goal kick and guiding the ball into the back of the net, before scoring again in the second minute of added time to take the lead out to 3-0 at the break.

The second period would start just as the first had finished, with New Zealand finding joy in front of goal, this time via Emma Main.

On 49 minutes Main looked in again, only for her shot to ping off the crossbar for a waiting Hannah Blake – who had only been on the field for four minutes – to strike home for a 5-0 lead.

That opened the floodgates for New Zealand, who in the 25 minutes which followed piled on five more.
Gabe Jillings and Claudia Bunge both added their names to the scoresheet, captain Michaela Foster hammered home a penalty and then Blake collected two more to secure her hat-trick.

The action stretched right through until the dying stages when a minute into added time New Caledonia defender Flaureen Ausu was shown a red card for a challenge in the box and Jenkins buried the ensuing penalty for an 11-0 lead.

Substitute Samantha Tawharu boomed a shot home in the 95th minute to close the scoring and finish and end at the game at 12-0.

While the loss was a big blow, New Caledonia coach Matthieu Delcroix was optimistic post-match, knowing that his team still has a good chance to advance to the semi-finals.

“We went into the match with a defensive approach. We had a good first half, we held them scoreless for most of it and had some opportunities to score ourselves,” Delcroix says.

“But that is why New Zealand are favourites, they recover well and were better than us.

“We just have to make sure we win our next game against Samoa and go through to the next round.”

In the second game of Match Day 3 Tonga tasted their first victory at the competition, getting up for a 4-1 victory over Samoa.

Midfielder Seini Lutu – already a veteran of two OFC U-20 Women’s Championship campaigns – featured heavily in the win, setting up the opening goal and scoring one herself.

Post-match coach Christian Koaneti spoke of his pride at being part of making history for football in Tonga.

“It’s great, I am lost for words,” Koaneti says.

“Right now I am over the moon. I think technically it was OK, but the win really came down to the heart, we have something going on with Samoa in terms of a little rivalry.

“We have come a long way since the first match and today everything was on the line.”

Alexandra Fifita opened the scoring on 23 minutes when she latched onto Lutu’s pinpoint cross.

The next 20 minutes saw play go from end-to-end, with scoring opportunities hard to come by.

A couple of quality saves from Tonga keeper Mele Akolo kept them ahead, before Lutu doubled their margin a minute before the end of regulation time in the first half.

But the response from Samoa couldn’t have been better, promptly racing down the other end to score via Sophia Aveau after she drew Akolo off her line and curved the shot around and into the net.

The second half started with plenty of physical play, and just three minutes in Veteronnica Tafito was shown a yellow card for Samoa.

A 55th-minute goal to Mele Kafa gave Tonga some breathing space, before they reverted to a more defensive formation to try and secure the victory.

Both sides showed some impressive defensive desire to save goals, but with five minutes remaining in additional time Samoa conceded a penalty which Ana Polovili drilled into the back of the net.

Post-match Samoa coach Nadia Malifa lamented a high injury toll, which she says contributed to the 4-1 loss.

“I am proud of my girls, I know what went wrong – we have some injuries to our players – but I am proud of them and they played their hearts out,” Malifa says.

“That wasn’t what they deserved from this game. We kept trying and did well to come back when we got the goal, but it wasn’t to be.”

Group B action returns today with Fiji playing Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea facing host nation the Cook Islands.

Source: OFC