A stunning opening goal has seen Papua New Guinea go down to Panama 2-0 in their FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Qualifier in Auckland.

The OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 champions came up against an unknown quantity in Panama from the CONCACAF federation. The PNG players spoken to in the build up to the game admitted that they only had online footage to work with but expected the Panamanians to be fast on the attack.

Although New Zealand has been hit by a cyclone and torrential flooding in the past fortnight, Auckland turned on a stunning evening to greet the teams as they walked on to North Harbour Stadium. The weather had disrupted both teams’ preparations for the game but it didn’t seem to affect Panama as they dominated possession early.

They wasted no time trying to get on the scoreboard, a shot by Rebeca Espinosa off a corner kick just cleared the bar.

It didn’t take long for the pressure to pay off, and the Panamanians did so in spectacular style. A cross by Katherine Macías was in a perfect position for Marta Cox on the penalty spot to turn and execute a sensational bicycle kick that scorched past goalkeeper Betty Sam.

PNG did bounce back after a long period on defence and were unlucky not to draw level in the 23rd minute. Ramona Padio found herself with a chance but couldn’t get the ball past goalkeeper Yenith Bailey.

Sam made a great save again and that seemed to rally PNG for their best chance of the game. Padio, Calista Maneo and Charlie Yanding combined to free up Maneo in the box, but her shot went straight and Yending’s gloves. The three were at it again shortly after, but by then Panama were wise to their attacking prowess.

Tanner Riley made an immediate impact after halftime, coming on as a replacement striker and immediately ripping off a shot that cannoned into the near post. After 63 minutes though, the American collegiate player showed her class to weave her way into the box and finish well off her left foot to score the crucial second goal.

After that Panama stepped up a gear and dominated possession till the game’s conclusion. Tanner had a second goal wiped off by the VAR for offside, but by then they were well in control anyway.

Sam can hold her head especially high for her work in goal, and the PNG side on the whole acquitted themselves well in a game that they entered as underdogs. They now play Chinese Taipei in their final game on Thursday.


PANAMA 2 (Marta COX 12’, Riley TANNER 63’)

HT: 0-1