March 8, 2008
AUCKLAND – Renee Leota’s first international goal couldn’t have come at a better time as the Football Ferns sealed Oceania’s nomination for the Beijing Olympics with a 2-0 win over a determined Papua New Guinea at Port Moresby’s Rugby League Stadium on Saturday.
New Zealand coach John Herdman’s pre-match call for patience from his side was justified as it took a composed Ferns side until ten minutes into the second half to break a packed Papua New Guinea defence.
‘It was what we expected with Papua New Guinea putting 11 players behind the ball and a bobbly pitch making passing difficult,” said Herdman, “but we we’re always in control and it was just a matter of time before we scored.”
Picking up on a poor clearance on the edge of the box in the 55th minute, 17-year-old Leota (pictured) buried a right foot shot into the bottom left hand corner to break the deadlock and relieve the mounting tension.
With the resistance of the South Pacific Games champions broken, substitute Kirsty Yallop added another nine minutes from full time to cap the win and secure Oceania’s nomination for the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing from August 8-24.
Like the Oly-Whites – who can confirm their nomination with a point against lowly Cook Islands on Sunday – the Football Ferns still require New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) ratification to take their place in the 12-nation women’s draw.
That could happen as early as next week when a New Zealand Football representative meets with the NZOC’s three-man Olympic selection panel to sell the Olympic merits of both teams.
After a testing three match series with Australia last week Herdman said the impact of New Zealand’s bench was crucial in relieving tired legs in the heat and humidity of Port Moresby.
“Three was always a danger of players blowing out during their fourth game in week, and also being affected by the heat having only arrived yesterday. But the girls played smart and were able to manage the heat, manage the conditions and get the win quite comfortably.
OFC Womens Olympic Football Playoff
PortMoresbyRugby League Stadium
Papua New Guinea
New Zealand 2 (Renee Leota 55, Kirsty Yallop 81) Papua New Guinea 0
New Zealand: Rachel Howard, Abby Erceg, Maia Jackman, Hannah Bromley, Ria Percival, Merissa Smith (Wendi Henderson, 60) Hayley Moorwood (Captain), Emily McColl, Simone Ferrara (Annalie Longo 46), Emma Kete (Kirsty Yallop 46), Renee Leota.
Substitutes not used: Jenny Bindon (RGK).
Coach: John Herdman
Papua New Guinea: Linda BUNAGA [GK].Katherina SALAIAU, Helen BAKI, Julie ALAU, 9. Deslyn SINIU, Catherine MOEDER, Daisy WINAS, Tracey KIG, Miriam LANTA (Captain), Ara MIDI, Lydia BANABAS
Substitutes: Roxanne KOMENG (RGK), Martha KIAPIN, Pauline TURAKAUR, Samantha PENINSA, Katherine KUSUNAN, Cathy AGUNAM, Sakapu MARK.
Coach: Francis MOIYAP