Top-ranked Papua New Guinea have secured top spot in Group B of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup after goals in each half earned them a 2-1 win over Tahiti at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, Fiji.
Ramona Padio’s first-half penalty and Meagen Gunemba’s second-half breakaway finish ensured PNG advance as group winners despite Tahiti’s Tahia Tamarii converting a late penalty.
Both sides peppered each other’s goal with long range strikes early on, Hinavainui Malfatti hitting the target for Tahiti while Gunemba and Rayleen Bauelua tried their luck for PNG.
But it took a penalty kick to separate the sides midway through the opening period.
PNG’s pace in attack caught out Tahiti’s defence and goalkeeper Camille Andre upended the advancing Charlie Yanding, leaving Solomon Islands referee Shama Maemae with no choice but to point to the spot. The responsibility was left for Padio, four years after scoring a penalty in PNG’s 3-1 previous tournament win over Tahiti, to find the target from 12 yards yet again to give her nation the lead.
The setback briefly enlivened Tahiti who suddenly looked the more likely to score. Malfatti continued to be Tahiti’s main threat and forced PNG goalkeeper Betty Sam to shovel a powerful effort wide.
Sam, starting in the absence of injured first-choice stopper Faith Kasiray, then reacted well to deny Charlotte Rodriguez’s close-range effort before Babou Tepea and Gwendoline Fournier both missed golden opportunities to grab a Tahiti equaliser before the end of the half.
PNG nearly punished Tahiti’s wastefulness immediately after the break as they went on an early second-half onslaught.
Padio had a chance for her brace while Gunemba twice tested Andre’s confidence in the Tahiti goal, while Tahiti remained dangerous, Kiani Wong’s 25-yard strike well tipped over by Sam.
The game was then marred by a serious looking injury to Tahiti’s Kohai Mai before they were yet again caught out by PNG’s pace in attack.
On this occasion it was Gunemba who raced clear, latching on to Yanding’s through ball before finishing clinically for 2-0.
There was however late drama, Tahia Tamarii scoring from the penalty spot after Lavina Hola was adjudged to have fouled Malfatti in the box but PNG held on to win the game and the group.
The final game in Group B takes place on Wednesday, July 20 when Tahiti face Vanuatu with both teams hunting for a positive result to ensure safe passage into the last eight.
Papua New Guinea head coach Nicola Demaine:
“I would have been happier with more goals obviously I feel like our performance deserved to have a bigger scoreline.
“We weren’t that happy with our performance in that last game (3-1 win over Vanuatu) although obviously happy with the points. We wanted to come here and show that we can play, we are well organised and a force to be reckoned with. I felt like we showed that today.”
Tahiti head coach Stéphanie Spielmann:
“We showed that we are a team even if we were in difficulty we stay altogether.
“We are working, working, working and after that we also showed that we can score some goals. We work very hard for our first game and for our second game so we are ready for Vanuatu.”
Papua New Guinea 2 (Ramona PADIO 28’ pen, Meagen GUNEMBA 83’)
Tahiti 1 (Tahia TAMARII 90’ pen)