Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek
The semi-finalists are set at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Oceania Qualifier following the final round of group fixtures in Apia.
Hosts Samoa have beaten Tonga 2-0 to finish runner up in Group B and will play the Solomon Islands on Friday for a place in Monday’s final.
New Zealand finished top in Group B. The Kiwis sweeping aside Vanuatu 5-0 to make it three wins from three in the group stage and will face Fiji in the semi-finals.
Samoa went into their final Group B match needing to win to qualify for the semi-finals, with Tonga knowing a draw would suffice. It was the hosts though that started the more dominant and were well worth their victory.
Sariah Taeaoalii was at the heart of most of the Samoan attacks in the first half and on another day she could have had a hat-trick. She had an early effort well saved by Tongan keeper Madison Tenifa ands after 25 minutes had a golden chance when put through one-on-one with Tenifa, who pulled off a brilliant save to deny the 17-year-old winger.
Taeaoalii was a real workhorse down the flank and after a scything run, she squared the ball to Leah Manuleleua who blasted the ball over the bar from close range. Samoa were rampant and a minute later they hit the front. Another run from Taeaoalii found Monique Fischer who, having made a strong burst through the middle, scrambled the ball into the back of the net.
Taeaoalii should have doubled the lead when she rounded the keeper and fired wide minutes later.
Half-time brought respite for Tonga but they were unable to mount any real pressure on the Samoan defence in the second period. Samoan chances kept coming but it took them to the 80th minute to double their tally after substitute Jayda Stewart beat the rushing Tenifa and placed the ball into the back of the net.
The crowd celebrated as Samoa secured a place in the semi-finals against Group A winners the Solomon Islands.
Tenifa saw red with under five minutes remaining. The goalkeeper rushing out to clear up a through ball only to handle outside the penalty area and leave the referee with little chance than to brandish the card.
Down to ten, Tonga’s chances of mounting a late comeback dwindled and Samoa held on comfortably to ensure they remain in the hunt for a place at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
Samoa: 2 (Monique FISCHER 37′, Jayda STEWART 80′)
New Zealand put in an accomplished performance against Vanuatu in Apia, sealing their place in the semi-finals at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament – Oceania Qualifier with a 100% record.
Indiah-Paige Riley was the star turn for the Kiwis, scoring twice in the first-half as her side asserted their dominance – controlling possession and territory for most of the 90 minutes.
Knowing victory would confirm a top place finish in Group B, Jitka Klimková’s team began on the front-foot, pinning Vanuatu back deep in their own half. New Zealand’s high defensive line making it difficult for their opponents to build up much in the way of momentum when they did get their feet on the ball.
It was Jacqueline Hand who gave New Zealand a deserved breakthrough – getting on the end of an Ally Green cross from the left-hand side that Vanuatu goalkeeper Amelia Ready misjudged.
Ten minutes later and the second duly followed. Betsy Hassett slamming the ball home from the centre of the penalty box after an outstanding run and cut-back from Indiah-Paige Riley.
Katie Bowen went agonisingly close to adding a third when her rasping effort from 25 yards thudded back off the bar, almost clearing the line in the process. It wasn’t long however before the net was found again – Paige-Riley getting a much deserved goal with a low effort that Ready could only get a hand to as it crossed the line.
The fleet-footed forward added a fourth with minutes left on the clock before half-time and almost completed a hat-trick moments later – this time Ready held her shot from distance well to keep the scoreboard at four.
The exciting Macey Fraser was a half-time substitute for the Kiwis and it didn’t take long for the midfielder to make an impact. Ready struggled with a cross again from out wide and when the ball broke to Fraser around 10 yards out, she made no mistake, driving home to make it 5-0 after 50 minutes.
Hannah Wilkinson continued to toil up front and went close to getting on the scoresheet but her close range effort on the angle brushed the outside of the far post with Ready beaten.
The pace subsided as the 90 reached a conclusion. Though New Zealand were rocked by a what appeared to be a troubling injury to the young Macey Fraser. Jitka Klimkova will be hoping there is no long term damage for the influential midfielder.
With the group stage now complete, New Zealand will face-off against Fiji in Friday’s semi-final.
New Zealand: 5 (Jacqueline HAND 12’, Betsy Hassett 21’, Indian-Paige Riley 30’, 43’, Macey FRASER 50′)