Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
After a rampant start, defending champions New Zealand have been made to work for their opening win in their quest to qualify for their fifth straight Olympic Women’s Football Tournament, in Paris in August.
The Football Ferns have beaten Tonga 3- 0 at the FFS Football Stadium in Tuanaimato.
The signs were ominous from the outset with Grace Jale opening the scoring in the second minute after the Tongan defence failed to clear from a corner.
The New Zealanders had arrived in Apia from destinations across the globe and but took little time to adjust to the sweltering heat as they ran the Tongan defence ragged in the opening quarter of an hour.
Ally Green added the second from a penalty after Mackenzie Barry was cut down just inside the area. Jale had her second in the 16th minute when she cut inside and placed a curling right footed shot into the far corner.
Tongan keeper Madison Tenifa was constantly in the action and made some good saves to deny the Kiwis who failed to add to their tally in the final 30 minutes of the half.
While New Zealand controlled possession in the second spell, Jitka Klimkova’s side struggled to create many clear-cut opportunities. The Tongan effort in defence was impressive. They kept their shape, were compact and dealt with most of the New Zealand attacks throughout the second half.
The Football Ferns used their five permitted substitutes as the players wilted in the afternoon sun.
New Zealand: 3 (Grace JALE 2’, 16’ Ally GREEN (P) 13’)
In the Group A match, which kicked off an hour earlier on Field 2, a young Fijian side were impressive in beating American Samoa 10-0.
Striker Sofi Diyalowai scored a hat-trick inside 15 minutes for Angeline Chua’s young side who were dominant from the outset. Fiji’s pace down the flanks opened up the American Samoa defence time and time again and Diyalowai profited.
The American Samoans were starved of possession but when Fiji’s attack did break down, Morgan Patea looked dangerous with silky footwork every time she touched the ball.
The Fijians though added two more first half goals including a fine strike by Cema Nasau deep into first half injury time.
Nasau added her second 13 minutes into the second half before Preeya Singh got on the scoresheet with just over 20 minutes remaining. Nasau completed her hat-trick 14 minutes from full time. Captain Unaisi completed the scoring deep into in jury time with the ball squeezing through the legs of Kapisi in the American Samoa goal.
Fiji 10 (Sofi DIYALOWAI 2’, 13’, 14’, Koleta LIKUCULACULA 34’, Cema NASAU 45+3’, 58’, 76’, Kasanita TABUA 60’, Preeya SINGH 69’, Unaisi TUBERI 90+5′)
American Samoa: 0