There may have been a few sprinkles of rain over Stade Yoshida this afternoon but the real downpour was on the field as 18 goals were scored across two key encounters for Group A in the OFC Women’s Nations Cup.
The opening match saw Samoa relinquish the lead to Tahiti only to come back in the dying minutes to secure a 5-5 draw. Meanwhile Papua New Guinea continued to flex their muscles beating the home side New Caledonia 6-2 in the evening to move to the top of the pool standings.
Samoa striker Sina Sataraka scored what has to be one of the quickest goals in OFC Nations Cup history when she opened her account within the first 15 seconds. The 15-year-old showed great composure as she forced a turnover with her high pressing before lobbing Vahinerii Puraga.
Tahiti weren’t too be outdone so early on however. Captain Heimiri Alvarez put her body on the line, diving low to head a beautiful cross back towards the top of the six yard box where a patient Carole Teotahi was waiting to finish.
Having not even hit the five minute mark yet, Samoa took the lead once more as Hana Malo floated in a free kick from the halfway line which was helped over the line by Hanihei Taumaa to the Tahitian defender’s despair.
She needn’t have worried too much as her teammates took just a couple of minutes to pull Tahiti even for the second time in the encounter following a wonderful driving run up the right flank from Ninauea Hioe and a blistering finish from Teotahi made it 2-2.
Tahiti finally took the lead in the 10thminute as poor defending following a Tahiti goal kick allowed Hanihei Taumaa to slot past an advancing Ronisa Lipi.
With five goals inside the first ten minutes it seemed the match surely had to slow down at some point, but with so much riding on the result neither team wanted to give an inch to their opponent
A foul on the arc in the 21stminute was Samoa’s chance to draw even once more, with Hana Malo stepping up and delivering a rocket past the wall in such a manner Puraga barely had time to move.
The scoring didn’t slow down in the second half as Samoa failed to contain the threat in their own area allowing Teotahi to once more whip in and prove themselves. But it was Sataraka’s heroics that would have most people talking as the youngster struck twice in ten minutes to ensure her side would share the points.
Samoa coach Nicola Demine was impressed with the united performance from her players and was also happy to see them rewarded for their hard work.
“It’s always better to be the one who equalises, and then to come back from two goals down to equalise when you haven’t scored a goal together as team is pretty good,” she said
While Samoa were happy to take a share of the points, Tahiti coach Stephanie Spielmann wasn’t quite so content after a marked improvement on their opening performance.
Spielmann said conceding so early was certainly a wake-up call for the players and despite a strong comeback, there was plenty of room for improvement.
“I wasn’t so happy with the performance. Of course, we can make mistakes with our technique, with certain things. But what I don’t want is to be lacking in spirit on the field. We have to fight from the beginning to the end, we have to be warriors, and we have to defend our country. I’m still waiting for the while group to understand this,” she said.
“The result isn’t so ideal, we lost our first match and we haven’t taken enough points from this one. There’s one last match and I hope we can find what we’re missing before then.”
New Caledonia and Papua New Guinea had a lot to live up to following the entertaining opener and they didn’t disappoint.
It took a little longer than 15 seconds for Papua New Guinea to find their feet, but with Marie Kaipu showing how determined she was to find the back of the net it was only a matter of time before she opened her account.
Her opening goal was a nice piece of work as she weaved past two defenders on the edge of the area before shooting under a diving Lorenza Hnamano to open her 2018 account. She extended the lead in the 31stminute as she outpaced the backline to get a shot off.
She then played a role in the third goal as she put a fantastic cross into the box from the left which was nudged over the line by Ramona Padio.
After the break the visitors continued their dominance with a goal coming quickly after the restart as Padio played a perfect pass through the defence for Kaipu to finish into the top of the net.
Two minutes later and the home side were finally on the board as Kim Maguire controlled the ball over Betty Sam, the PNG keeper, and saw it over the line. With a 4-1 lead at this stage Papua New Guinea looked like the night be nearing a close with their hosts struggling to keep pace, however not one of them could keep up with Kaipu as she struck a great pass from Meagen Gunemba, rocketing it into the net. The 21-year-old then rounded out her tally with a fantastic shot from out wide on the left which had Sam completely beaten.
New Caledonia added a consolation goal courtesy of substitute Sydney Gatha but the damage had already been done.
Peter Gunemba, Papua New Guinea coach, was confident going into the match despite stating that New Caledonia were a strong side who shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“I love my defence, they did some really great defending today against a really good team. Then also we had our super girl with us today,” Gumba said of Kaipu’s outstanding performance among a squad of high performers today.
The heavy loss was a tough pill to swallow for New Caleodnia coach Kamali Fitialeata who struggled to find the words explain his feeling.
“It was kind of a bizarre match. With every shot almost, they would score. We made mistakes especially out wide but they were also incredibly good as an opponent. Everything worked for them today, and they seemed to show a greater desire than us to win and that is reflected in the final score.”