Oceania Football Confederation > News > 2014 OFC Women's Nations Cup > New Zealand have title in their grasp

New Zealand have title in their grasp

But it was no easy outing for Oceania’s top-ranked team as Papua New Guinea threw everything at the side as they chased their own World Cup dream.
“It was very hard and the conditions were a lot more difficult than they were in the last match,” Football Ferns coach Tony Readings said at the final whistle.
“It was very hot and PNG played completely different tactics than Tonga did, so they put everyone behind the ball and just made it hard. They were trying to frustrate us and it did. They frustrated us for a big portion of the game and hats off to them because they had some tactics and they executed them brilliantly so really well done for them.
“And we have some good lessons to learn for ourselves. We created more than enough chances to make it a little more comfortable but we didn’t so we’ll learn from that. But again, brilliant from PNG, I thought they were excellent today.”
New Zealand found themselves unable to play their usual game as Papua New Guinea implemented a heavy defensive system, much to their opponents frustration.
Crosses came flying in from Ria Percival and Ali Riley out wide, but the front line were denied time and again by their host’s defensive structure, and an in-form Fidelma Watpore in goal.
The New Zealanders weren’t helped by their inability to find the finishing touch that proved so lethal against Tonga on day one. Several certain goals were nicked just wide, rebounded off the post or were sent up the face of the goal mouth.
Papua New Guinea, to their credit, were unrelenting as they chased down the ball and blocked numerous crosses and shots. They tried to counter swiftly when in possession but with Meagen Gunemba acting as lone striker and the midfield slow to push forward there wasn’t enough manpower for the side to cause much trouble for New Zealand’s defenders.
Coach Gary Phillips found himself with some frustrations of his own, forced to make two changes before the break after the hardworking Marie Kaipu and Carolyn Obi were forced out with injuries before the break.
On a positive note for the host side, they kept their visitors locked at 0-0 going into the half time break which was no mean feat giving the number of opportunities the Kiwis had.
Phillips was forced to make a further substitution when Yvonne Gabong went down in the 58th minute, to be replaced by Barbara Muta, and it was just a minute later that the Football Ferns were able to break the deadlock.
Rebekah Stott picked up the ball at the back and seeing a path through the middle took a punt, moving through the midfield before blasting a low drive from the top of the box to open the scoring.
Gunemba made an effort to counter but still found herself outnumbered at the front and the New Zealanders were able to recover possession with relative ease and begin their assault of the Papua New Guinea goal afresh.
The second goal was a delight to witness as Ali Riley delivered a cross at the back post, it was headed back across the goal by substitute Rosie White for striker Amber Hearn to slot into the back of the net with a diving header.
Victory was assured in the second minute of additional time when Annalie Longo was rewarded for an outstanding afternoon on her behalf, with a bouncing volley beating past Watpore for New Zealand’s third.
Readings says while his side found it a frustrating afternoon, they weren’t discouraged by the score line at half-time.
“For us nothing really changed because we were creating chances and we knew that we would tire them out, they’d already had two players come off injured in the first half,” Readings explains.
“We didn’t want their tactics to frustrate us, we knew their tactics were set out to do that, and if we let them frustrate us then we were letting their tactics beat us. For us it was just about keeping the ball and moving it, we made a few tactical adjustments which worked in the second half.
“And it was really just about persevering and not panicking as we knew we’d score, and once we did we’d get a couple more and that worked well for us today.”
For Phillips it was a disappointing result but he took heart from his players’ performance.
“Clearly New Zealand were the better team but I’m really proud of the girls’ efforts,” he says.
“I thought they were magnificent, nil-nil at half-time. Strange things happen in football and we gave ourselves a fighting chance. It’s important that we held on as long as we could and you never know a free kick or a set piece and we might have been able to pick something up.
But in the end New Zealand outclassed us, they’re number 19 in the world for a reason. But our organisation, our work rate and our commitment to one another was magnificent and I’m very proud of them.”
Phillips says the approach to this match differed, of course, to that of the match against Cook Islands.
“From our perspective there’s no question, we had to come into it with tactics. But even if I have the best tactics in the world it’s up to the girls to carry them out and their commitment to carrying out instructions was testament to their attitude to this tournament.
“We’ll get better from that and learn from that. We know we can defend, now we just have to get the same level of fitness that New Zealand has to be able to compete over 90 minutes and learn to keep the ball better.”
Both Tonga and Cook Islands had everything to prove when they took to the field for the opening Match Day 2 encounter of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup this morning.
After a heavy defeat at the hands of New Zealand in their opening match Tonga wanted to prove they were much better than that 16-0 scoreline suggested – and they did.
Looking much more organised on the pitch and with a steely determination, Tonga were quick off the mark applying pressure to their opponent’s backline from the outset.
However it was the Cook Islands who took the first shot of the match, forcing keeper Lupe Likiliki into action three minutes in.
It was hard to determine who was getting the better of who is this match as the ball flew from end to end. Certainly Likiliki was the more active of the keepers in the opening 45 minutes.
The pressure relented somewhat when Cook Islands striker Linade Unuka was forced off with an injury in the 27th minute, but it was short-lived as her replacement Rai Nganu set about making a nuisance of herself.
Tonga’s fortunes looked to change early in the second period when an incident in the box saw Pauline Tonga downed and referee Amos Anio of Papua New Guinea pointing to the spot in the 54th minute.
The normally composed Penateti Feke stepped up to the spot, but fired straight down the middle allowing Imelda Vakai to palm the effort up and over the cross bar. Their bad luck continued in the 68th minute when goalkeeper Lupe Likiliki had to be replaced, leaving the goalstopping to young debutante Suiliana Uta’atu.
Fifteen minutes later, after a string of shots on goal, the Cook Islands were able to break the deadlock. A quick counter attack saw the ball punted long for Tepaeru Toka to bring down, take two touches and fire past an advancing Uta’atu.
The goal seemed to spur the Cook Islanders on as they pressed forward in numbers, but it proved a fatal decision. After being denied at one end the ball flew up to the other end and to cries of offside, the Cook Islands could do nothing but watch as Heilala Loto’aniu tapped in the equaliser at the far post in the fifth minute of additional time.
Young Cook Islands substitute Moeroa Harmon attempted to return the advantage to her side with an inspired solo effort through the centre but her offload was too heavy to trouble Tonga.
Tonga coach Kilifi Uele had been hoping for an outright win but after going a goal down was pleased his side was able to come back for a draw.
“I think it was a bit disappointing because the girls played to the best of their ability in game today. They played the way I wanted them to play
and of course we could have had the win if we got the penalty but that’s part of the game,” he rued of their missed opportunities.
“Of course it was a better performance than Saturday. It was a matter of them getting on the field and feeling how much more competitive it is here and learning to stick to the game plan.
“We came up with this result and I’m pleased that the girls played to the best of their abilities.”
For Jimmy Katoa, coach of Cook Islands, it was an equally disappointed afternoon but like his counterpart says there were positives to take from the match.
“A draw wasn’t what we were hoping for. It was a bit disappointing, we let ourselves down in those last five minutes,” he says.
“You’ve got to play to the whistle, the girls thought that was offside but you don’t play offside, you go until that whistle goes.
“We played better in that second half against PNG but we just couldn’t get ourselves into gear today for the whole game. Disappointed from that aspect but I could see the girls not giving up, they tried their best and it’s just one of those things.”
With one match day remaining in this competition New Zealand have all but sealed their spot in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada™, with only a miracle set to deny them the glory.
Cook Islands will give it their best shot as they attempt to unseat the defending champions in the opening game of Match Day 3 on Wednesday 29 October at 11am, while Papua New Guinea and Tonga will close out the 2014 OFC Women’s Nations Cup with their encounter due to get underway at 2pm.

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