A long-range effort from captain Monique Fischer and a moment of individual brilliance from Jayda Stewart proved the difference as Samoa beat Tonga 2-0 in the opening game of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 in Fiji.
The game at Suva’s HFC Bank Stadium represented a return to international football for many after years of disruption. The magnitude of the occasion was made evident by powerful scenes as both Samoa and Tonga players sung their respective national anthems.
While Samoa looked to control the game in hope of unleashing their main threat in striker Torijan Lyne-Lewis, Tonga were comfortable playing on the the counter-attack with Laveni Vaka’s endeavour causing disruption.
In the end, it was a driving run from Vaka that presented Tonga with a golden chance to take the lead after 13 minutes. However, Lositika Feke poked her effort wide past the onrushing Samoa goalkeeper Ronisa Lipi.
Tonga were then made to pay for their missed opportunity when Samoa scored the opening goal of the tournament from what appeared to be an innocuous position.
Tonga’s defence shaped up for a cross when Fischer stepped up to take a free-kick from 30 yards out. However, the Samoa captain’s long-range effort was goal-bound and slipped through the hands of Tonga goalie Meleana Taufa to give Paul Ifill’s side the lead.
Tonga then had an almost identical opportunity as Feke’s previous effort, this time Jazmine Loto’aniu placing her shot wide of the oncoming Lipi just before the break.
Team Mataliki continued to push for an equaliser in the second-half, with Feke and Loto’aniu again coming close before a moment of quality took the game away from Tonga.
If Samoa’s opening goal was perhaps fortunate, the same could not be said about the second, as Stewart dribbled and slalomed her way past three Tonga defenders before smashing home to finish a sweeping passing move which began deep in their own half.
Stewart’s magical moment illuminated a hard-fought and physical second-half as both teams dug deep in hunt of more goals but to no avail as Samoa opened the tournament with a well-earned victory.
Tonga will look to bounce back when they face the Cook Islands on Saturday, July 16 while Samoa now have one foot in the quarter-finals ahead of their final group game against the Cook Islands on Tuesday, July 19.
Samoa 2 (Monique FISCHER 28‘, Jayda STEWART 70’)