New Zealand and Papua New Guinea were the big winners on the opening day of the Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) Women’s World Cup Qualifiers – Papua New Guinea 2007 both registering 6-1 victories.
New Zealand was made to work hard for their victory in energy-sapping conditions despite the gap in class between the two teams at the Sir Ignatius Kilage Stadium in Lae. Both Ali Riley and Ria Percival were in menacing form on the flanks for New Zealand with both players electric pace leaving Tonga’s defence struggling to contain their slaloming runs into their penalty area.
Inevitably the opening goal arrived courtesy of a Riley cross that allowed Kirsty Yallop time and space to side foot the ball home from almost point-blank range after just 8 minutes of play. Percival then laid on New Zealand’s second goal with a perfectly timed pass from out wide on Tonga’s right flank in the 13th minute that allowed Wendi Henderson ample time to lob the ball over the advancing Mele Likiliki and into the net.
It was Percival’s delivery from a corner that led to the Kiwis third goal when Maia Jackman bulleted a far post header across the face of a packed six yard box allowing the lanky figure of Abby Erceg to hammer home a powerful header from almost on the line past Likiliki to give New Zealand a 3-0 advantage after 17 minutes.
The second-half continued in much the same vein with New Zealand retaining the ball for long periods as Tonga chased shadows. New Zealand’s movement out wide was a continual problem for Tonga who never managed to properly stem the constant flow of attacks.
Goal number four arrived with Ali Riley once again the provider when she scythed through the Tongan defence before cutting back a tidy left foot cross that allowed Wendi Henderson time to apply the simplest of finishes in the 56th minute.
FIFA Women’s All Star and New Zealand stalwart Maia Jackman then produced a dipping volley that slammed into the underbelly of the Tongan crossbar with the rebound falling kindly for Kirsty Yallop to finish in the 73rd minute.
New Zealand completed the scoring when substitute Zoe Thompson when she blasted home an unstoppable diving header from just outside the six yard box following an inch perfect cross from Kirsty Yallop after 81 minutes.
But Tonga’s brave efforts were rewarded when Vasi Feke broke through the New Zealand rearguard and trundled the ball past keeper Stephanie Pukrin after 85 minutes to draw forth the biggest cheer of the day from the Papua New Guinean support.
Tonga’s performance was punctuated by some good individual performances from goalkeeper Mele Likiliki, 15-year-old substitute goalscorer Vasi Feke and midfielder Atelaite Manu who was at the heart of Tonga’s best attacking moves. However, the chasm in class between the two teams proved too wide for the Tongan team to bridge.
New Zealand coach John Herdman was happy with the result and performance but said he believed there was a lot more to come from the New Zealand team.
“We responded pretty well today but we know we can put on a better performance. It was difficult because we had the ball for long periods and our centre backs were on halfway for ten minutes at a time so we lacked a bit of concentration. Maia Jackman was a standout for us she was focused and composed and you saw the quality of her shot that led to the goal.”
Tonga coach Kilifi Uele was pleased with the performance despite the result and said he would approach the remaining matches with optimism. Uele also had special words of praise for Vasi Feke.
“I feel very excited for what Vasi has done. I told her when she came onto the pitch that she had more pace than the New Zealand defenders and that if she could stay on their highest defender she would get a chance. I am happy because this is a 15 year old girl playing against New Zealand for the first time and she has scored a goal in a World Cup Qualifier. She deserves her praise.”
NEW ZEALAND: Stephanie PUKRIN, Rebecca SMITHhannah BROMLEY 34), Abby ERCEG, Maia JACKMAN, Ali RILEY, Ria PERCIVAL, Kirsty YALLOP, Marlies OOSTDAM, Hayley MOORWOOD(annalie LONGO 58), Wendi HENDERSON(Zoe THOMPSON 59), Nicola SMITH.
SUBSTITUTES NOT USED: Anna GREEN, Simone FERRARA, Katie HOYLE, Emily McCOLL, Emma KETE, Jenny BINDON.
GOALS: Kirsty YALLOP 8, 73, Wendi HENDERSON 13, 56, Zoe THOMPSON 81, Abby ERCEG 17.
TONGA: Mele Teukialupe LIKILIKI, Emelita MOALA, Nasaleti KALAVI(Kaati Fetokai MALUA 46(Mele Vaisioa Mahe NIUKAPU 68)), Karen Marie UTAATU, Kulia FILO, Atelaite MANU, Salome Sela VAENUKU, Neomi Loto Tonunga TUPOU, Penateti Lapiuingi FEKE(Feke VASI 29), Matelita Lotomo’ua Ki MISINALE, Sala VEAMATAHAU.
SUBSTITUTES NOT USED: Heilala LOTO’ANIU, Lupe TAUFAHEMA, Lata’is’a TUIFUTUNA, Lose Pongilau PELE, Seini MALUNGAHU, Pesi Talamonu NAPA’A.
GOALS: Vasi FEKE 81.
REFEREE: Job Minan PONIS (PNG)
ASSISTANT REFEREE 1: Hilary ANI (SOL)
ASSISTANT REFEREE 2: Hamilton SIAU (SOL)
FOURTH OFFICIAL: Joachim Salaiau SOSONGAN (PNG)
REFEREE INSPECTOR: Neil POLOSSO (SOL)