(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek)
Three second-half goals has seen Samoa secure victory over a dogged defensive display and outstanding goalkeeping from Tonga in Group A of OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2023 as they bid for a place in the knockout stages.
Samoa dominated the first-half from the on-set but could not find a way past the outstanding Madison Tenifa in the Tonga goal, who produced numerous fantastic saves to keep the score level.
In only the 5th minute Lilly Dowsing was put through on goal but Tenifa reacted quickly to deny the forward. The keeper then thwarted three seperate attempts from Samoa No.9 Maylania Mikaele, including an incredible save in the 17th minute, rushing out to narrow the angle and making herself big to parry Mikaele’s effort.
Whitney Avei came the closest of all, when her strike from the edge of the box smashed off the crossbar as Tenifa looked on helplessly.
To their credit, Tonga worked hard to reverse the momentum and create some chances and came close later in the half, when Leeann Taufa’ao found space on the left to get her shot off, which whistled wide of Tsehai Viliamu’s right-hand post.
There was still time left in the first period for another Tenifa highlight reel save, as she used her legs effectively to block a left-footed effort from Dowsing to ensure it was a stalemate at half-time.
Tonga started the second-half with much greater intent and direction and almost took a shock lead when Anita Hufunga drove a goal-bound effort from the left of the penalty box, stinging the hands of Viliamu.
Samoa however re-established themselves as the half went on and finally broke the deadlock in the 60th minute thanks to Arianna Skeers, who found too much space in the centre of the Tonga penalty area following a cross from Sariah Taeaoalii and dispatched into the corner to give her side a crucial lead.
A second would come minutes later to give Samoa some breathing room. A cross from the right was parried by Tenifa but fell to Avei, who buried the rebound after her initial header struck the crossbar.
Avei was again at the heart of her team’s attacks and added her second and Samoa’s third with a driving run from midfield before unleashing a shot that found the bottom corner of Tenifa’s goal to put the result beyond doubt.
Tonga got the consolation goal that their endeavour and commitment deserved with minutes remaining, when Ana Fakavai pressed Samoa’s backline following a long ball over the top, nicking it past the keeper and rolling the ball into an unguarded net.
A crucial win then for Samoa, as they seek to advance to the knockout stage, whilst Tonga will need to win their final match against New Caledonia to have any hope of continuing in Fiji.
Tonga: 1 (Ana FAKAVAI 86′)
Samoa: 3 (Arianna SKEERS 60′, Whitney AVEI 68′, 75′)