Favourites New Zealand have begun their campaign at the OFC U-19 Women’s Championship in dominant fashion by going on the goal rampage against Papua New Guinea, outclassing the Melanesians 12-0 in the tournament’s opening match at Ngahue Reserve in Auckland.
Hannah Blake got the scoring underway and went on to lead the assault with a four-goal haul while Dayna Stevens struck a second-half hat-trick on her debut appearance for New Zealand and two other players, Sam Tawharu and Emma Main, helped themselves to braces. The only Kiwi scorer not to find the net more than once was Jacqui Hand as Gareth Turnbull’s side sent a message of intent to the five other teams, who are all bidding to earn a place at the 2018 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
The home nation appear well-equipped to get there after putting on a scintillating display of attacking football in sunny but chilly conditions in Auckland’s eastern suburbs.
Papua New Guinea deserve plenty of credit for defending doggedly throughout and using their physicality to good effect but the class of New Zealand proved too much to contain and the result did not look in doubt from the moment Blake had her first after a quarter of an hour.
New Zealand had dominated the early possession and already carved out several opportunities before Blake made one count, smashing in a loose ball after a corner. The hosts continued to control proceedings but had to wait until the half-hour mark to double their advantage, Tawharu prodding home a cut back from the pacey Main.
It looked like that’s how it would stay as the half ticked into additional time but New Zealand somehow managed to add two more strikes before the sides went into the sheds, Hand tapping in from close range before Blake smashed in off the crossbar on the stroke of half-time.
Despite their dominance and a four-goal lead, Turnbull was not entirely satisfied with his side’s efforts and his words of wisdom at the break had the desired effect as New Zealand stepped their performance up in the second period.
Stevens came on for her maiden appearance and made an immediate impact, rounding off a Tawharu cut back in the 49th minute. It was 6-0 to New Zealand just a few moments later as Main got in behind the tiring Papua New Guinea defence and finished with aplomb for a goal that her earlier efforts had richly deserved. She had completed a double by the 63rd minute as Sarah Morton turned provider with a well-placed low cross to the near post.
With his side now seven goals to the good and threatening to run rampant, Turnbull made a double change as Rebecca Lake and Grace Jale made way for Serena Murrihy and Nicole Mettam respectively. The change in personnel did not result in any let up from New Zealand though, Stevens claiming a rapid-fire hat-trick with two more accomplished finishes in the 66th and 76th minutes.
Blake made sure Stevens wouldn’t be the only hat-trick heroine by putting New Zealand into double figures from a Mettam pass in the 84th minute and added her fourth for good measure soon after. Papua New Guinea were now praying for the final whistle to come as quickly as possible but suffered further pain with the last kick of the game, Tawharu being tripped in the box and tucking home the resulting penalty deep into additional time.
Turnbull was pleased to have witnessed such a ruthless display in the second half after an opening period in which he felt New Zealand were far from their best.
“I thought we were below the standards we set ourselves and the main part of that was the final act in our execution,” he said.
“But, credit to the girls, we spoke honestly at half-time and I thought the intent in the second half was improved, which led to the executions improving as well. So I was pleased with the scoreline but not overly pleased with how we performed over the 90 minutes,” he added.
“But it’s a development opportunity and a real positive for us is that we gave debuts to two players and one of them got on the end of three good team work goals to get herself a hat-trick.”
Next for New Zealand is Fiji on Friday and Turnbull is expecting a similar sort of challenge.
“We’ll sit back and watch Fiji later today but, again, it will be a very physical team who will probably make space at a premium for us so we’ll just focus on what we do and shift the ball quickly. We’ll look to play positively and get people into good scenarios for them to then be unselfish or bring to life their x-factor.”
New Zealand 12 (Hannah Blake 16’, 45’ + 3’, 84’, 87’, Sam Tawharu 31’, 90’ + 5’, Jacqui Hand 45’ + 1’, Dayna Stevens 49’, 66’, 76’, Emma Main 51’, 64’)
Papua New Guinea 0
New Zealand: 1. Anna Leat (GK), 2. Saskia Vosper, 3. Rebecca Lake (20. Serena Murrihy 65’), 4. Elizabeth Anton, 5. Sarah Morton, 6. Grace Jale (16. Nicole Mettam 65’), 7. Emma Main, 8. Malia Steinmetz (c), 9. Sam Tawharu, 10. Hannah Blake, 11. Jacqui Hand (17. Dayna Stevens 46′)
Substitutes not used: 13. Nadia Olla (GK), 14. Claudia Bunge, 15. Michaela Foster, 19. Deven Jackson
Coach: Gareth Turnbull
OFC U-19 Women’s Championship Draw
(Ngahue Reserve, Auckland)
Friday 14 July, 10am
vs New Caledonia
Monday 17 July, 12.30pm
Friday 21 July, 10am
Monday 24 July, 10am