Photo Credit: OFC Media via Tonga FA

Four goals from Tevita Falepapalangi have inspired Tonga to a massive 7-0 victory over Papua New Guinea in the final match of the OFC U-16 Men’s Championship 2024 – Qualifying Stage tournament. 

Following confirmation of the Solomon Islands qualification for the OFC U-16 Men’s Championship with victory earlier in the day, Tonga and Papua New Guinea had only pride and second place on the standings to play for in the final match of the tournament. 

Backed on by a small, but loud home crowd at the Teufaiva Stadium in Nuku’alofa, Tonga settled into their rhythm quickly. 

A defence-splitting pass from Talaiasi Faluku left Sione ‘Ainu’u with just the keeper to beat inside the opening ten minutes, but Alexander Possiri held his ground well to parry away for Papua New Guinea early. 

‘Ainu’u missed another gilt-edged chance moments later, poking the ball against the crossbar from point blank range after meeting a brilliant low cross off the left flank from Siaki Lonitenisi. 

The Papua New Guinea defence was all over the place, and the pace and accuracy of their opposition was causing problems. Coach Marty Terry responded by replacing Harry Araga with Hyman Wemin halfway through the opening stanza, with his side being outplayed. 

It failed to stem the tide though, and the Tongan pressure eventually told when Tevita Falepapalangi broke the game open with a special cameo before the break. First, he raced onto a long ball in-behind the defence, before calmly slotting past Possiri to fire the hosts in front. 

Falepapalangi followed that up with a second goal just five minutes later, sending the home crowd into a frenzy after receiving the ball at the top of the box and picking out the top right corner of the net with a brilliant strike off his right foot. 

The Papua New Guinea defence looked in tatters, and Falepapalangi struck again when he went down in the box under a challenge from Seth Tade and the referee awarded a penalty for Tonga in the fifth minute of injury-time. ‘Ainu’u stepped up and duly converted the spot kick into the bottom right corner, pulling Tonga into a three-goal lead at the break.  

Normal service resumed for Tonga seconds after the restart when Talaiasi Faluku turned the ball into the bottom right corner, but had his goal ruled out for offside. Falepapalangi should have had his hat-trick minutes later too, striking the base of the left post after finding himself one-on-one with the keeper again. 

A mistake at the back almost allowed Israel Ure to pick out the back of the net in a rare chance for Papua New Guinea, but he poked his effort straight into the arms of Sioeli Fifita. 

The fourth goal finally came when Siaki Lonitenisi raced onto a pass in-behind from ‘Ainu’u and found the bottom left corner of the net with a left-footed pile-driver. 

That was followed up by a fifth three minutes later, as Falepapalangi finished his hat-trick with a composed effort into the bottom-right corner of the net from close range. 

That wasn’t the end of his day though, adding his fourth goal of the game and Tonga’s sixth with a long-range stunner off his left foot into the top right corner moments before full-time.

Lonitenisi added the icing on the cake with the seventh goal late in injury-time, picking out the bottom-right corner for his second of the afternoon.

The victory ensures Tonga finish the OFC U-16 Men’s Championship 2024 – Qualifying in second on the standings, with six points and two wins from their three matches.

Tonga: 7 (Tevita FALEPAPALANGI 34’, 39’, 75’,90′, Sione ‘AINU’U 45+8’, Siaki LONITENISI 72’, 90+7) 

Papua New Guinea: 0

HT: 3-0