The home nation’s perfect start to the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship has continued with New Zealand posting a second successive high-scoring victory, this time 9-1 over Fiji in challenging conditions in Auckland today.
With a bone-chilling wind swirling around the ground and rain falling for much of the second half, the environment was not conducive to flowing football but at least the artificial turf at Ngahue Reserve was not affected and New Zealand were still able to exhibit enough of their attacking ability to nearly break double figures.
Unlike in the 12-0 opening day win over Papua New Guinea, there were no hat-tricks but Hannah Blake, Dayna Stevens and Sam Tawharu all came close by notching braces while Jacqui Hand, Michaela Foster and Emma Main all found the net once.
Fiji became the first side to breach New Zealand’s rearguard at this tournament when Cema Nasau squeezed a well-struck shot in off the near post but, with the score then sitting at 6-1, it was no more than a consolation as New Zealand once again emphasised their dominance at this level.
With captain Malia Steinmetz among several players rested after that Papua New Guinea triumph, the skipper’s armband went to Anna Leat and the hugely promising goalkeeper was proud to lead her country for the first time.
“I was pretty surprised to be honest,” she admitted. “But I’ve got to try to take that sort of thing in my stride and I just tried to lead the best I could. I’ve got a great bunch of girls around me to do it with so it was great.”
Aside from picking the ball out of her net on that lone occasion, Leat had few attempts at goal to deal with on her maiden captain’s performance as much of the play took place at the other end.
After bagging a four-goal haul first up, Blake continued to put her hand up for the golden boot and didn’t take long to open the scoring, rifling in a loose ball from the edge of the area in just the fifth minute. It was 2-0 only two minutes later as Blake turned provider to tee up Stevens and Fiji were all but dead and buried by the 13th minute when Hand calmly finished a one-on-one with goalkeeper Ateca Tuwa, whose constant bravery and athleticism helped the underdogs prevent New Zealand from reaching double figures.
From an individual point of view, the pick of the goals arrived soon after when Michaela Foster, who captained her country at last year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan, curled home a left-footed free kick from outside the box on the right. Fiji then seemed to find their feet and provided sterner resistance, holding the hosts out until five minutes before half-time as Main rounded the impressive Tuwa and rolled home.
With the points now surely safe, coach Gareth Turnbull made a double change at half-time, the composed Saskia Vosper and goalscorer Main both making way as Emma Clarke and Tawharu entered the fray. It was a special moment for young Coastal Spirit defender Clarke, who was making her international debut.
There was little chance of it being a losing one as Blake helped herself to her second and New Zealand’s sixth ten minutes after the restart and substitute Tawharu made an impact with around 20 minutes remaining, scoring twice in quick succession with the first coming from the penalty spot. The striker then spurned a golden opportunity to complete her hat-trick though, stepping up for another penalty attempt but being denied by a sharp low save from Tuwa.
But the defending champions did still manage to get on the scoreboard one more time, Dayna Stevens pouncing in the 83rd minute for her fifth goal of the tournament.
Leat was largely satisfied with her side’s showing but felt there are still aspects that need to be improved on.
“In the first half we definitely got on top from the start and executed what we wanted to. I think at points in the match we weren’t fully switched on and that’s what resulted in us conceding but, overall, I think we should be happy with our performance,” she said.
“It was tough with the weather but that should never be used as an excuse. We got the result so it was another step towards our goal.”
Turnbull and his coaching staff will now look to reflect on the performance over the weekend before taking on New Caledonia on Monday.
— OFC Oceania Football (@OFCfootball) July 13, 2017
Fiji 1 (Cema Nasau 64’)
New Zealand 9 (Hannah Blake 5’, 55’, Dayna Stevens 7’, 83’, Jacqui Hand 13’, Michaela Foster 19’, Emma Main 40’, Sam Tawharu 69’, 71’)
New Zealand: 1. Anna Leat (GK) (c), 2. Saskia Vosper (12. Emma Clarke 46’), 3. Rebecca Lake, 6. Grace Jale, 7. Emma Main (9. Sam Tawharu 46’), 10. Hannah Blake, 11. Jacqui Hand, 14. Claudia Bunge, 15. Michaela Foster, 16. Nicole Mettam, 17. Dayna Stevens
Substitutes not used: 4. Elizabeth Anton, 5. Sarah Morton, 8. Malia Steinmetz, 13. Nadia Olla (GK), 19. Deven Jackson
Coach: Gareth Turnbull
OFC U-19 Women’s Championship Draw
(Ngahue Reserve, Auckland)
vs New Caledonia
Monday 17 July, 12.30pm
Friday 21 July, 10am
Monday 24 July, 10am