(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek)
The Solomon Islands have struck first in Group C of the OFC Women’s U-19 Championship 2023 following a 1-0 victory over Tahiti at HFC Bank Stadium in Fiji.
Tahiti dominated the early exchanges and controlled possession in the midfield and will be disappointed they weren’t ahead at the break.
The Tahitians suffered a massive early blow when captain Hinavainui Malfatti hobbled off with looked like a serious leg injury in the first 10 minutes after she was unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty when she went down in the box. She was replaced by Heikulanie Lucas.
The Tahitians should have broken the deadlock in the 23rd minute, when Lucas was put through on goal, drawing the keeper but squaring the ball across the goal out of reach of striker Haranui Le Gayic and the golden opportunity went begging.
The Solomon Islands were always dangerous on the counterattack with Jayminah Francis proving a real handful up front. She used her pace to get in behind the Tahitian defence on several occasions.
There was a huge moment of controversy in the 28th minute when the impressive Le Gayic thundered a shot off the underside of the crossbar. The assistant referee signalled the ball hadn’t crossed the line and referee Chris Bennett waved play on. Replays appeared to show the ball had indeed crossed the goal line.
Francis was put clear on goal for the Solomon Islands in the 41st minute but Tahitian goalkeeper Vaimatea Tauihara cut down the angle and the shot went narrowly wide of the post.
In added time of the first-half, Tahiti defender Hanavai Teupooteharuru cleared off the line from a Solomon Islands corner and the two teams went to the break level.
The Solomon Islands took a crucial lead just five minutes into the second half when striker Salome Masi struck a superb right footed shot into the left-hand corner of the net.
Tahiti pressed forward but most of their attacks were shut down by a resolute Solomons defence. Defender Tewia Tagi shot wide from an acute angle in the 64th minute but further clear-cut chances failed to materialise until the 82nd minute hen Le Gayic was denied a shot on goal by Solomons goalkeeper Naomi Siriongo.
A couple of minutes later Heikulanie Lucas blasted over from close range, a chance she could have placed into the back of the net. Tahiti laid siege on the Solomon Islands goal in the closing stages but couldn’t find the equaliser and the Solomon Islands take an important three points.
Solomon Islands: 1 (Salome MASI 50’)