Tonga couldn’t prevent New Zealand from making it a clean sweep of the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship, going down 9-0 to the champions in their final match today.
Team Tonga employed a defensive strategy but the New Zealand girls easily snuck out to a five goal lead at half-time.
Striker Hannah BLAKE scored the first goal of the game after eight minutes following an excellent set play from her team mates.
But New Zealand dominated the rest of the first half as Tonga collapsed, Emma MAIN scoring four in fairly quick succession.
Tonga were left shell-shocked, New Zealand tried hard to add to their tally before the half time but AKOLO appeared to draw all her strength to save up in the air, diving to the left and right corners of the goal.
Blake and Foster latching on to the full-back’s return pass down the right and digging out a superb cross, allowing MAIN to nip ahead inside the six-yard box but despite the impressive build-up, they were not successful.
In the second half, the Tongans performed quite strong in their defending, as they managed to hold New Zealand off for more than 30 minutes. New Zealand became a bit frustrated as the Tongans defended even deeper and very strategically and they could not break through them.
In the 77th minute New Zealand found their first half form and with it ways to break down the Tongan defence. They added four to their tally with the last coming from captain Rebecca LAKE who slotted in right-footed inside the small box after superb work from BLAKE down the left to secure the win and the title.
Coach Christian Koaneti was so happy as his girls stuck to their plan even though New Zealand still manage to score.
‘’First of all, credit to Gareth Turnbull and his girls, we came to this game knowing New Zealand would be tough but we tried to stay compact during our game and work on our defence, but at end New Zealand was too tough,’’ says Koaneti.
‘’Defensively I was pretty proud of the girls in the second half, we managed to hold them for 29 minutes without any goals, and the girls got tired and New Zealand managed to capitalise on some of our mistakes.’’
Koaneti marked some of the tasks for him to work on with future teams upon his return to Tonga.
‘’After this tournament, I have come to conclude that there is plenty of room for improvements, looking at the future tournaments of course. I’ll go back to Tonga and work on those mistakes, and develop the younger girls back in the Islands and hopefully it will come out with more favourable outcomes in the future tournaments, thank you.’’
New Zealand coach Gareth Turnbull was very happy and pleased with the result of his team.
“I’m pleased to come through with another good win. We played really well in the first half, probably the best 45 minutes of our campaign. We were a little bit scrappy in the second half, we made some subs which kind of broke the flow a little bit but we finished strongly which is pleasing.
“Tonga, credit to them,” he continued.
“It was a little bit like Samoa in the last game, certainly in the second half, they sat a little bit deeper. They defended with real spirit and made it challenging for us to break down but pleased with the way we performed. The score line was a little bit irrelevant at this stage, it was more about us executing what we came here to do. I think for large parts of the first half we were particularly good at that. We spoke at half time about the final act component which we probably didn’t improve on as much as we would have liked in the second half but overall pleased with today.”
Turnbull is now looking ahead to increase his task in term of preparing for the FIFA Women’s U 20 World Cup in France next year.
“We’ve had a few days for it to sink in I guess, but it’s certainly nice and it’s a big part of the qualification through Oceania to experience World Cups. This is a really talented group, most of these players have already played on the world stage before so I think we’ll have some real confidence going in to a major event where it’s not the first time for us.”
The next big event on the calendar for a number of these girls is the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship in Samoa next month.
Tonga Football has also made the appointment of Koaneti to be the coach of the Tonga National Women’s team which is preparing for the upcoming Pacific Mini Games that is scheduled to take place in Vanuatu at the end of the year.