A powerful effort from Kiana Swift earned Tonga a potentially crucial 1-1 draw against the Cook Islands in their Group A encounter of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup at the HFC Stadium in Suva, Fiji.
Lyric Davison’s goal early in the second-half and 15-year-old goalkeeper Kimberly Uini’s first-half penalty save had previously looked like earning the Cook Islands a win in their first game of the competition. However, Swift’s moment of magic means the points were shared and the tournament fate of both teams remains in the balance.
Much of the pre-match talk revolved around the previous OFC Women’s Nations Cup meeting between these Polynesian rivals. Tonga were victorious on that occasion in 2018, Laveni Vaka’s goal the difference in a 1-0 triumph, and she was given the perfect chance to open the scoring again from the penalty spot after Teretia Teinaki brought down Jasmine Loto’aniu in the box midway through the first-half.
But on this occasion Vaka was denied by teenage stopper Uini, who was just 11-years-old when the teams met four years ago. The youngster called Vaka’s bluff from the spot, standing her ground to save a powerful driven effort, before rushing out to tip Vaka’s follow-up attempt over the bar.
Uini was again called into action for a routine save from Alexandra Fifita before Kura Mose had the Cook Islands’ first effort of the game, placing her effort at an open goal wide after beating Tonga goalkeeper Hehea Taufa to the ball.
A similar chance then fell Tonga’s way, this time Loto’aniu could not find the empty net after Uini had ventured out of her goal to make a sliding clearance
Early in the second period and Uini’s first-half heroics were rewarded as Davison punished Tonga’s inability to clear a short corner routine, her powerful deflected shot cannoning in off the underside of the crossbar for 1-0.
With Tonga staring at an uncertain future in the competition they went chasing the game and it soon paid off when Swift’s powerful long-range strike finally got the better of Uini in the Cook Islands goal.
Both teams had chances to win the game late on, Daviana Vaka having two attempts go wide for Tonga and Victoria Fatiaki’s effort for the Cook Islands clearing the crossbar but neither side could find the crucial winning goal.
The Cook Islands will now take on Samoa in the group’s final game on Tuesday, July 19 while Tonga will be waiting on results from elsewhere to discover if they will advance to the quarter-finals.
Tonga acting head coach Lupe Likiliki:
“We were looking forward to win this game but I am very happy and I am proud of the girls.
“Firstly we praise god for always helping us and also for the fans upstairs for helping and we dedicate the draw from today to all of us.”
Cook Islands head coach Gary Phillips:
“It’s ugly at times but in this environment it is not about the performance it’s about results. As I said, as ugly as it was, we still could have won it at the end there with the one-on-one.
“So there’s some positives to take out of it but we will go back and do our homework and freshen up and get ready for the next one.”
Tonga 1 (Kiana SWIFT 72’)
Cook Islands 1 (Lyric DAVISON 49’)