OFC - New Caledonia have triumphed in their opening OFC U-16 Women’s Championship encounter after beating Samoa 6-0 yesterday.
The game was played at Tuanaimato yesterday.
The day before, Fiji and Cook Islands earned an early edge in Group B after defeating American Samoa 4-1 and Tonga 3-1, respectively, on the first day of action at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2017.
Although American Samoa threw everything into the milestone match, Fiji’s impressive ball skills and undeniable fitness allowed them to take control of the game and earn the upper hand in the 11th minute with a solid finish from Eseta Sinukula.
Viniana Buke – who completely dominated in the midfielded until she was called off to rest in the 62nd minute – was next to find the net after dribbling through three players then carefully placing the attempt just wide of goalkeeper Zena Foma’i.
Sinukula followed up with a second goal only three minutes later, profiting from a miscued clearance from the American Samoa backline and giving Fiji a comfortable three goal lead.
With their opening match nerves overcome, Fiji started playing a more structured game, holding possession and playing with more patience. American Samoa dropped off and defended deep, however, keeping Fiji out of goal for the remainder of the half.
The second half started slow but Fiji coach Marika Rodu’s 54th minute substitute Vani Bainvalu brought the game back to life when she got her name on the scoresheet only six minutes after taking the field.
American Samoa’s silver lining came after a hard tackle from Fiji captain Lusiana Lagilevu earned Elcy Naolavoa a free kick just outside Fiji’s penalty box. The American Samoa captain sent in a hard attempt and although goalkeeper Seru Vasuitoga managed to reach it, there was enough weight behind the kick for the rebound to roll over the line.
American Samoa coach Ruth Tuato’o was overjoyed with the valiant effort from her team but believed Fiji’s win was well-deserved after their determined performance.
“It’s been years since we we’ve been able to send a team to participate in a tournament and this is the first time we’ve sent our youngest team. I’m very proud we’ve how they’ve performed today,” she said.
“Fiji did an awesome job in defence, up front and in the mid. They’ve done an awesome job preparing for this tournament. We got a chance to play against one of the good teams and we’re very grateful.”
Despite a rocky start and some slow periods throughout the game, Rodu was pleased with the overall performance of his side and is relieved to have secured three points on day one.
“I think we’ve started off the competition pretty well. It’s about consistency and we’ll try to maintain the level of our game,” he said.
“There were some areas of error but I think the players really stood up today. For most of them it was their first international match. We can only improve from here.”
The second match of the game saw a closer competition, but after picking up on Tonga’s defensive errors and finding the back of the net early in the first half, Cook Islands managed to secure the 3-1 win.
The opening minutes of the game saw a neck-and-neck battle from both teams but in the 13th minute Ngame Taringa stunned the stadium – and Tonga goalkeeper Kalolaine Topui – with a long range attempt that found the back of the net. Topui managed a hand to the ball, but with the afternoon sun behind it, the catch was misjudged and dropped into goal.
Another long-range attempt brought the tally for Cook Islands up to two in the 29th minute – this time from Nathalia Viking, who followed up with another goal only two minutes later.
Tonga fought back hard for the remainder of the first half, making the most of captain Seini Lutu’s accurate boot on corner kicks and creating strong combinations up front with Florence Hakalo and Taipaleti Vai, but the determined side were unable to convert before the half-time whistle.