(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek)
New Caledonia have confirmed their place in the Quarter-Finals of OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2023 following victory over Tonga in their final Group A match in Lautoka.
Defeat for Tonga means that their journey comes to an end, despite another spirited display and some more great saves from goalkeeper Madison Tenifa.
Just 6 minutes were on the clock when New Caledonia took the lead when Alofa Hmaen was played through on the right-hand side of the box via an excellent pass from Maria Binet, drawing goalkeeper Madison Tenifa before calmly rolling the ball into the far corner.
Tonga struggled to get out of their own half for the majority of the opening period with New Caledonia’s Deynera Michel dominating the centre of the park, first to loose balls and providing a drive from midfield that threatened to create chances every time she got on the ball.
Efforts from long-range were Tonga’s likeliest avenue of getting back into the match, with Anita Hufanga testing ‘keeper Alesié Adiou with one free-kick, before firing another from close-range just over the bar.
The second New Caledonia goal came with just ten minutes of the half-left. Caroline Naaoutchoue – one of the stand-out players for her team in the tournament thus far – broke down the left-flank, beating three Tongan defenders with a wonderful run before cutting back to Sarah Boarat, who duly converted from six yards out.
Maria Binet almost added a third before half-time but having created space for herself on the edge of the box was denied by a combination of post and Tenifa’s hand and the scored remained at two going into the break.
Binet wouldn’t have to wait long to find the scoresheet however. Having beaten her marker on the right-wing Alofa Hmaen got her cross away but was caught late by Meliame Fakahau and the referee had no option but to point to the spot. Binet made no mistake from 12 yards, slamming her effort down the middle past Tenifa.
Hmaen continued to prove a constant threat on the right, regularly having the beat of her marker but struggling to find a consistent final product to add to the scoreline.
The fourth and a fifth New Caledonian goals came in short order, first when Naaoutcheoue showed excellent composure to lift the ball into an unguarded net after ‘keeper Tefina has scrambled to try and claim a cross before Louane Pocoue-Kasouemi broke down the right, cut in from the byline and squeezed her shot in at the near post.
Substitute Julia Honakoko added a sixth deep into stoppage-time, firing first-time past fellow substitute Manukailopa Mailangi in the Tonga goal.
New Caledonia now look forward to a Quarter-Final fixture in Suva this weekend as they seek to emulate their 2019 achievement of reaching the final.
New Caledonia: 6 (Alofa HMAEN 6′, Sarah BOARAT 33′, Maria BINET ’49, Caroline NAAOUTCHEOUE ’77, Louane POCOUE-KASOUEMI 79′, Julia HONAKOKO 90+3′)