Samoa impressed a boisterous home crowd with a 4-0 win over Tahiti tonight to claim their first points of the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship while New Zealand continued their dominant form with a 7-0 victory over New Caledonia.
After seeing their fellow Francophones fall to a heavy defeat in their opening match New Caledonia took to the field with a plan of action, sticking to their defensive guns and keeping their opponents relatively frustrated.
New Zealand eventually broke down the barriers in the 17th minute when Aniela Jensen volleyed a well-placed cross from Britney Cunningham-Lee. Grace Wisnewski soon joined her on the score sheet after following up an attempt from Maggie Jenkins. Jenkins found the net herself in the closing minutes of the half, firing the ball over goalkeeper Serena Huliwa and in at the back post.
New Zealand’s frustration boiled over as the second half got underway and ten minutes in were able to bring the tally to four when Cunningham-Lee pounced on a dropped save from Huliwa and slammed the ball into goal. Second-half substitute Kelli Brown followed up with a goal each while Jenkins scored twice more to seal her hat-trick and round out the victory for her side.
New Caledonia coach Matthieu Delcroix was relieved to finish with a single digit result against the defending champions.
“Seven goals in a game of football is always a lot but then against New Zealand – who scored 17 in their last match – maybe it’s not as bad as it sounds,” he said.
“I think we were quite strong defensively and I was very happy with the spirit of the team. We had certain things we wanted them to do and they managed that.
“I think this will be of benefit for us, we worked hard at the back and maybe against weaker teams we’ll have more space on the ball and more ability to counter-attack.”
Factoring in the heat and a determined game plan from New Caledonia, New Zealand coach Leon Birnie was pleased to see his side trying to play the structure and style they have been developing at trainings, even if the scoreline wasn’t quite as impressive as their opener.
“The conditions did make a difference today. It was a lot cooler in the first game and the quality was more reflective of the group,” he said.
“Credit to New Caledonia they made it really challenging, and you saw that, we struggled to get through them at times and we were only able to take seven at the end of the day.
“We went out there and tried to improve on what we we’ve been working on in-possession and out-of-possession. That’s our focus for the campaign and they were trying to do it. Even when it didn’t come off, I think they just got tired and the quality wasn’t quite there but the intent was there and that’s the most important thing.”
The second match of the day saw improved organisation from the hosts Samoa who dominated Tahiti to secure a surprising 4-0 victory.
Samoa’s eager attackers pushed the opposing back line to their limit before defender Sina Sataraka finally fired the ball into the back of the net from outside the penalty box in the 12th minute to put her side ahead.
The hosts earned a second goal in the 32nd minute when Madeleen Ah Ki met a corner kick at back post but the game leveled out for the remainder of the half as a tired and satisfied Samoa switched to a more defensive game.
Despite an impressive finish from Nagem Uiagalelei bringing their tally to three in the 65th minute, Samoa continued to play a more conservative game for the majority of the second half and focused on holding out the determined Tahitians until the final whistle.
Late substitute Zoe Ruby gave Samoa the boost they needed in the last minutes of play, following up an attempt from Uiagalelei and squeezing in one more goal in the 84th minute.
The debutants came close to goal on the number of occasions – Vaihei Samin sending countless long-range attempts just over the crossbar – but strong collaboration in the Samoa back line and some outstanding saves from Meripa Seumanutafa meant the hosts kept a clean slate.
Tahiti coach Stephanie Spielmann was heart-broken to see her side’s semi-final hopes dashed, but was pleased that her capable side was able to gain some international experience.
“It’s incredibly difficult for us right now because I think we have a team that has the level to qualify, and to go further in this competition,” she said.
“To lose against New Zealand is normal because they’re really much better than us, but today is really hard because I think that we are better than Samoa – with all respect to them of course.
“I think that we play a style of football that is interesting, but which we haven’t finished developing. We really lack experience, but we came here to find some more experience.”
Samoa coach Guillermo Schiltenwolf was overjoyed with his side’s execution of their game plan and is feeling more confident ahead their final group match against New Zealand after an all-round performance from his side tonight.
“I’m very, very proud of the girls. I was not expecting 5-0 but they did a fantastic job so I’m really, really proud,” he said.
“We watched the New Zealand and Tahiti game and we targeted some of the Tahiti players. The game plan was to try and focus on those two or three players.
“The girls showed us – and their people – that they could do it. It was definitely another tough game but I knew we could do the job.”