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Positive start for Fiji and New Zealand

Fiji captain Jotivini Tabua controls the ball as a Cook Islands player closes her down. Photo: OFC

Fiji snatched their first win in Group B of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup with a 3-0 victory against Cook Islands this evening at Stade Numa Daly in Noumea.

Meanwhile New Zealand showed they will be leaving nothing to chance, seeing off Tonga in determined fashion with an 11-0 win.

Heading into the tournament as the lowest-ranked of the remaining teams after coming through the qualifying stage, Fiji kicked off the encounter with purpose settling in early on in the opening 10 minutes against an experienced Cook Islands side.

Despite the Fijians early dominance, Cook Islands captain Elizabeth Harmon had a clear sight on goal in the 5th minute with an effort which went off-target.

Luisa Tamanitoakula thought she had opened the scoring when she touched the ball into the net following a well-worked team move in the 7th minute but it was ruled offside.

The match finally started to open up around the half-hour mark for Fiji as they found more spaces in a tiring Cook Islands defence.

The defining moment arrived in the 34th minute when Cema Nasau put Fiji in front with a close-range finish.

Trina Davis doubled Fiji’s lead two minutes later as she ran onto a through ball and sent the ball over forward rushing Cook Islands keeper Marjorie Toru, beating her to the punch and helping Fiji to a 2-0 lead.

Cook Islands regrouped in the second half in search for a goal with a much-improved performance.

However it would be Fiji’s night with Tamanitoakula putting the game to bed in the 57th minute when she headed home a corner delivery.

The Cooks had some half chances in the remaining minutes of the second half but Fiji held on to walk away with a 3-0 win at full time.

Fiji coach Marika Rodu was very pleased that his team started the competition with a bang.

“Obviously any team would like to start the tournament with a victory,” he said.

“I think definitely we achieved that objective today but despite the fact we are going away with the three points, we seemed to start off late, maybe pressure took hold of the girls in the beginning.

“We could have done better but not to take away from a good Cook Islands outfit, they came fighting in the beginning.”

Cook Islands coach Tuka Tisam said he was proud of his team’s second half performance despite the defeat.

“Second was good I told them we needed to get some more chances to go forward and they executed that but unfortunately we didn’t get a goal, he said.

Earlier in the afternoon it was all New Zealand as the professional side saw off Tonga in a frenetic 11-0 victory.

The Football Ferns dominated from the outset with Rosie White needing just eight minutes to find the back of the net and open the floodgates for New Zealand.

White added a second while Annalie Longo, Betsy Hassett and Sarah Gregorius all got on the board with a brace to give the Kiwis an 8-0 lead at the break.

Gregorius competed her hat-trick in the 52nd minute alongside a goal a-piece from Ria Percival and substitute Grace Jale, making her senior debut to boot, to round out a huge win for the Ferns.

New Zealand coach Tom Sermanni lauded his players for a professional performance.

“It was a solid performance and a good win, a good first win for us,” the Scotsman said.

“Credit to Tonga, despite the result they kept working very hard to the end, they kept defending very bravely. We are happy with the result.

“It’s very important to start with a win, it’s the key thing in tournaments like this.

“Because what you don’t want is going into the last game and being desperate to win by a certain number of goals so it’s important today to get a good result and a good performance.”

Tonga coach Christian Koaneti said they stuck to their game plan but New Zealand were the far superior side.

“Coming into this game we knew that New Zealand are a very strong team,” he said.

“We had our own game plan but it didn’t turn out the way expected. This loss is something we will take on to build for our Fiji game.”

Group B resumes on Thursday with Tonga taking on Fiji and New Zealand playing Cook Islands.

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