Photo Credit OFC Media via Christophe Fotozz
New Zealand has effectively qualified for the semi-finals at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Tahiti after a 4-1 win over Fiji in their second Group B match at the Stade Pater in Papeete.
Both sides had recorded resounding victories over the Cook Islands and Vanuatu respectively in their opening Group matches and it was an eagerly anticipated encounter.
And while New Zealand had the Lions share of possession in the opening quarter and created the better chances, Fiji were dangerous on the counter and Caroline Qalivere and Shania Singh were able to get in behind the New Zealand defence on a couple of occasions.
The breakthrough for New Zealand came in the 27th minute when Pia Vlok played a lovely through ball for Laura Bennett to run on to and out sprint the defence and fire to the left of Rosalain Sarahphina in the Fiji goal. A minute later New Zealand almost doubled their lead when Natalie Young fired an audacious shot from wide out against the cross bar.
Fiji continued to threaten, and the likes of Singh and Sisilia Kuladina didn’t allow the Kiwi defence to get comfortable.
Bennett had a couple more chances before New Zealand added a second five minutes from half-time when from a free kick floated in by Vlok, Sarahphina fumbled allowing Ella Jerez to tap in.
After Kuladina had an early chance for Fiji hitting her left foot shot just wide of the post in the second half, New Zealand put the game to bed.
First Natalie Young beat Sarahphina at the near post with a powerful right foot shot before two minutes later Young was pushed in the box and Vlok slotted the resulting penalty.
Fiji breathed some life into the contest 16 minutes from full time with Caroline Qalivere smashed the loose ball into the back of a net following a free kick outside the New Zealand penalty box. Fiji had another chance to narrow the gap six minutes from time but Elesi Tabunase sliced the ball just wide.
For New Zealand, Player of the Match Pia Vlok and Amber de Wit were dominant forces in midfield while Fijian goalkeeper Rosalain Sarahphina made some telling saves to keep the scoreline from blowing out in the second-half.
New Zealand: 4 (Laura BENNETT 27’, Ella JEREZ 40′, Natalie YOUNG 50’, Pia VLOK (P) 52’)
Fiji: 1 (Caroline QALIVERE 74′)