Hosts set the women’s pace

But it was a draw that started the action in the morning when Cook Islands, bronze medalists at the OFC Women’s Nations Cup last September, and Guam fought out an entertaining 1-1 battle.
The scorers were kept a lot more busy in the fixtures that followed as New Caledonia beat American Samoa 7-0, Tahiti all but ended Solomon Islands semi-final hopes with a 2-0 win and Tonga came from behind to post a memorable 4-1 win over Fiji.
After an error-ridden opening half, that final game produced arguably the day’s most entertaining moments as Tonga put together a stirring fightback against a Fiji side reduced to 10 players for the last 20 minutes. The dismissal of skipper Raijieli Lewasoqevula turned out to be the death knell for Fiji as the foul produced a penalty, coverted by Laite Si’i Manu, that put them 3-1 down and effectively out of the contest.
Things had looked so promising for the beaten side earlier on when Lota Francis put them ahead in just the 11th minute but goals to Sofia Filo and Salome Va’enuku, in the 50th and 70th minutes respectively, flipped the match on its head and the penalty-sending off combination made it almost impossible for Fiji to recover. Captain Piuingi Feke made sure the points would be going to only one team with Tonga’s fourth late on.
There may not have been as many goals in the day’s opening match but there was still plenty to please the purists as Cook Islands and Guam showed they could be darkhorses for the title. Non-OFC member Guam caught the eye in particular and will be disappointed not to have bagged the win after leading until one of the final kicks of the game.
The sides were very evenly-matched and it wasn’t until the 76th minute that the deadlock was finally broken, Jannel Banks pouncing to give Guam the lead. Both teams were playing their first matches of this tournament and Guam must have thought they’d done enough to begin their campaign with a win.
But stand-out Cook Islands striker Dayna Napa had other ideas and earned a valuable point when she went one-on-one with goalkeeper Nichole Paulino in the dying seconds and slid the ball home.
One side to earn their first victory was Tahiti, although their scenario is somewhat different as it was their third match of Group A. The clash with Solomon Islands was a must-win for both outfits and the victors will be relieved to have kept their semi-final chances alive.
They have inspirational captain Mohea Hauata to thank for that after the midfielder put her country ahead from the spot on the stroke of half-time and added to the lead with a stunning second-half strike. Such was their dominance that Tahiti were even able to contend with the 58th-minute dismissal of key defender Mariko Izal, who was sent from the field after committing a second bookable offence.
Francophone rivals New Caledonia had drawn a blank in their scoreless stalemate with Tahiti on Monday but found their range again in emphatic fashion today, breaching the American Samoa defence seven times. Skipper Christelle Wahnawe led the way with a quick-fire hat-trick in the opening half hour and went on to score twice more as Les Cagous gave the home fans plenty to cheer about. Kim Maguire and substitute Marjorie Pouye were the other players to get their names on the scoresheet.
The women’s tournament now takes a break for a day and returns with four matches on Friday.


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