(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek)

Samoa staged an incredible comeback to seal a 3-2 victory over Vanuatu in Lautoka and confirm their place in the Quarter-Finals at OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2023

There was barely time to get settled before the opening goal, coming after just 18 seconds, when Vanuatu’s Eline Aruvuha chased a through ball, out-paced Samoa’s Anika Humphries and prodded her effort past Samoa goalkeeper Tsehai Viliamu to give her side a dream start.

Samoa responded well however and enjoyed the majority of possession for the remainder of the 45 minutes.

Lilly Dowsing, so often the most dangerous attacking outlet for Samoa at this tournament, had their first attempt on goal, showing outstanding touch to control the ball before firing her effort straight at goalkeeper Manuela Bong.

Bong was on hand again midway through the half, this time denying Whitney Avei, who after creating space for herself just inside the area, could only shoot directly at the stopper.

Goalscorer Aruvuha threatened on occasion to double her tally and Vanuatu’s lead, the closest coming when her free-kick from 20 yards was palmed around the post by Viliamu.

With the seconds ticking down to half-time, Arianna Skeers almost drew her side level, dispossessing Anna Lop in the middle of the park, beating two more Vanuatu players before slicing her effort wide when well placed.

An early goal in the first half was followed by an early in the second, as Samoa finally found the equaliser. Sariah Taeaoalii showing great endeavour on the right flank, before laying the ball back to substitute Tamani Skeers. The defenders’ looping attempt deceiving Bong in goal and nestling in the far corner to give Samoa a crucial goal.

The two sides traded chances midway through the half, firstly when Vanuatu captain Angelina Poida pounced as Viliamu lost her footing, only to clip her effort into the keeper’s arms, whilst at the other end Arianna Skeers shot wide from a tight angle with teammates well placed in the middle.

The match ultimately was decided in a frantic last 15 minutes. Vanuatu initially took the lead following a corner from the right, met by the head of Nellie Vuti, whose downward header snuck into the corner, as goalkeeper Viliamu and defender Humphries waited for one another to take action.

Samoa however instantly struck back through a fortuitous own goal from Leody Kalsrap, whose attempted back pass was sliced past the unfortunate Bong.

Vanuatu still had time to hit the crossbar from distance through Onica Kaltak before, in the blink of an eye, Samoa broke upfield, Tamani Skeers lofting a ball over the top for Lilly Dowsing to run onto and expertly arrow into the far corner to give her side a 3-2 lead.

Samoa will join Group A winners New Caledonia in the knockout stages, whilst Vanuatu must wait on results from elsewhere before learning their fate.

Samoa: 3 (Tamani SKEERS 48′, OWN GOAL 86′, Lilly DOWSING ’88)
Vanuatu: 2 (Elina ARUVUHA 1′, Nellie VUTI 76′)

HT: 0-1