The opening match on the Match Day 3 of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, Tonga pushed forward from the outset and it paid off when they earned the lead just six minutes after a quick counter attack saw Mele Kafa break through the Papua New Guinea backline and smash the ball into the back of the net.
Papua New Guinea upped the pressure after conceding, creating several opportunities up front. The Tonga backline managed to hold them out until the 26th minute when a perfect through ball from Ramona Padio set up Selina Unamba in front of goal.
Padio found the net herself in the last minutes of the half, sending the ball past Mele Akolo after the keeper dived to punch away Padio’s first attempt at goal.
Six minutes after returning to the field for the second half Padio found herself with a brace as she once again followied up a clearance from Akolo.
Nicollete Ageva was behind the final goal for Papua New Guinea, positioning herself perfectly to receive a ball from Padio who had weaved through the midfield and defence to meet Akolo in a one-on-one. Padio tapped the ball right to an unmarked Ageva, who calmly slotted the ball into goal.
Down the other end of the field, Tonga’s Seini Lutu was unlucky not to score after having several attempts blocked by some acrobatic saves from goalkeeper Faith Kasiray. Lutu’s closest attempt was from a free kick just outside the Papua New Guinea box, which she sent over the wall towards the top corner. Kasiray jumped for the ball, just reaching a fist to send it over the crossbar.
Pleased with her side’s strong win, Papua New Guinea coach Rachel Wadunah credited their opponents for putting up a strong challenge.
“Tonga’s performance was good. They held the ball, they passed the ball and they combined well to finish off that goal. It was a fantastic goal,” she said.
“The opposition were very tough. They wanted to make sure we had to sit back and defend. That made my girls struggle a little bit but at the half time I told them they need to go in and try and play as hard as they can and they really came back in the second half.”
Yet to win a match, Tonga coach Christian Koaneti was disappointed to lose their early lead but acknowledged the talent and determination of their opponents left Tonga little room for errors.
“For the first 20 minutes we managed to stick to what we had planned but then towards the end of the game we made far too many mistakes and Papua New Guinea managed to capitalize,” he said.
“Given how they performed in their last match against New Caledonia, I expected Papua New Guinea to play well today and we had prepared to counter that but it didn’t turn out like we had expected.”
Tonga is now prepared to take New Caledonia for their fourth match in this tournament.