OFC - New Caledonia have finished second in Group A and will join New Zealand in the semi-finals after defeating Tahiti 2-1 in their final group stage match at the O.F.C. U-16 Women’s Championship in Apia, Samoa.
In the opening match of the day, New Zealand continued their unbeaten streak with an 8-0 win over Samoa to claim the top spot in Group A and book their meeting with Cook Islands in the semi-final.
Tremendous defending from the Samoa backline – and a few miracle saves from goalkeeper Meripa Seumanutafa – kept the hosts’ slate clean until the 36thminute when Kelli Brown scored New Zealand first goal of the game.
In the closing minutes of the half, a perfect connection with a corner ball earned Jayda Stewart her first goal of the match but the home team’s chins were held high as they headed into the changing rooms with a close tail on the defending champions.
New Zealand took control of the game in the second half and a pair of goals from Maggie Jenkins in the 56th and 58th minute got the ball rolling for another New Zealand scoring-spree. Stewart added one more to her tally and Macey Fraser got her name on the scoresheet before Brown squeezed in two more in the last 10 minutes.
New Zealand coach Leon Birnie was happy with the performance of his side but credited Samoa for a testing first half.
“It was good to get the three points but credit to Samoa today – that first half especially – it was really challenging for us. They dropped their players off and we struggled at times to get through them,” he said
“I thought our intent was good at times. Execution wasn’t quite on in some areas but it was good to get some goals in the back of the net and another three points.”
Despite the heavy loss, Samoa coach Guillermo Schiltenwolf was pleased with his team’s battle against the giants and very proud of their campaign.
“We were very happy up until the second half. The game plan was working well, but we were playing against New Zealand so we did what we could. It is what it is,” he said.
“It was a great experience for the girls and this was a great tournament. Hopefully in two years we’re going to be here again stronger.”
New Caledonia and Tahiti’s meeting was neck-and-neck for the majority of the first half, with possession switching between the nations and close opportunities testing both backlines and goalkeepers.