Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek

Hekari United’s win in the day’s early fixture meant that there was little room for error for Tafea FC and Henderson Eels. A draw would be enough to guarantee Tafea made the semi-finals, while this was a must-win match for the Eels.

The Vanuatuans were the first out the gate and took the lead after just six minutes, as Leimata Simon galloped into the Henderson Eels’ penalty area and cut back to Diana Sine, who stayed onside to tap in from three yards.

Sine then drew a foul, from which Jane Alatoa doubled her side’s lead. Curling a beautiful free-kick through the arms of Betty Sade in the Eels’ goal to put Tafea in control.

Alatoa was a composed, slick presence throughout the match, with most of Tafea’s attacking opportunities traced back to her close control and canny decision making. 

Such was her impact, Eels head coach Godfrey Manehioha turned to his bench early to try and contain her, bringing Florence Aretoro on for Mirriam Suimae in the 29th minute in an attempt to stifle Alatoa’s influence.

Shortly after the change Henderson almost conceded a third but for Betty Sade, who snuffed out Simon’s attempt by bravely coming off her line. Henriette Sangul used her speed to fashion a final opportunity for Tafea deep into added time of the first half but Simon headed her cross over the bar.

Henderson finished the half stronger than they started, but were still unable to unlock Tafea’s defence as they chased a goal to get back into the match.

Heavy rainfall arrived as the second period began and it seemed to suit the Eels, disrupting Tafea’s preference for keeping the ball on the deck. However, just as the home side thought they might be finding a way back into the game, Tafea struck a decisive third, with Elma Aiviji taking advantage of a half-cleared corner to drill the ball home and all but secure a semi-final place for her team. 

Knowing they needed a large goal difference to make ground on Hekari’s five unanswered strikes earlier in the day and finish above their Papua New Guinea rivals, Tafea pushed on for further goals, with Sangul missing a golden opportunity to score a fourth after beating the offside trap but firing wide on the hour mark.

In the end, Tafea had to settle for a 3-0 and second place in Group A. They will discover their semi-final opponents tomorrow when Group B comes to a close. 

Henderson Eels FC: 0
Tafea FC: 3 (Diana SINE 6’, Jane ALATOA 13’, Elma AIVIJI 54’)

HT: 0-2