(Photo Credit: OFC Media via Phototek)
Vanuatu got off to the perfect start to their OFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2023 with a convincing 5-0 victory over Tonga in Lautoka, Fiji.
A strong first-half performance put them in complete control, leading 4-0, including two excellent goals from the outstanding Elina Aruvuha.
It could have been a much different story for Tonga however as they came within inches of taking the lead in the opening minutes when Tamaa Faletau spotted Vanuatu goalkeeper Manuella Bong off her line and lifted a precise chip over the stopper, only to be denied by the crossbar.
Vanuatu – having been let off the hook – made their opportunities count as Aruvuha took control of the match, opening the scoring in the 11th minute with a arrowed effort into the far corner before exploiting a lapse in concentration from the Tongan backline, skipping through and sliding a confident finish past Madison Tenifa in the Tongan goal.
Despite Tonga’s attempts to find a way back into the match, the result was all but sealed in the last ten minutes of the half, first when 16 year-old Angelina Poida produced a bit of magic, trapping a great pass from Valerie Viralolokwai before dummying a Tongan defender and slamming the ball past Tenifa.
There was still time for a fourth before the half-time whistle, with Aruvuha again at the heart of proceedings, sliding a perfect through ball to Rebina Woka who rattled her shot into the roof of the net from a tight angle.
Tonga started the second-half with greater purpose but continued to struggle to carve out clear-cut chances. Anita Hufanga nearly found a way back, digging out a shot from the edge of the penalty area that cleared the bar.
Hufanga came closer minutes later when a rifled shot from over 20 yards out was spilled by ‘keeper Bong but Tamaa Faletau was in an offside position as she attempted to follow in the rebound.
Tongan ‘keeper Tenifa was busy in nets and produced an excellent diving save to palm away a stinging effort from outside the box from Onica Kaltak.
Any remote hopes of a Tongan comeback were snuffed out in the 67th minute when Kaltak’s speculative effort looped up and over Tenifa in the Tongan goal and nestled in the far corner to put any doubts over the result to bed.
Vanuatu were happy to see out the rest of the match in relative comfort. Aruvuha the stand-out performer, controlling the ball from a withdrawn forward position, whilst her defensive team mates dealt with any flickering Tongan counter-attacks without threat.
The exciting Poida went close on two more occasions with efforts from distance but nothing to unduly concern Tenifa, as Tonga finished the match with a much stronger second-half showing.
For Vanuatu, they go on to face New Caledonia on Saturday, themselves victors on day one. Tonga now face a must-win encounter with Samoa, who fell to a 1-0 defeat despite a promising showing in their opening fixture.
Vanuatu: 5 (Elina ARUVUHA 11′, 14′, Angelina POIDA 34′, Rebina WOKA 45+2′, Onica KALTAK ’67)