Midfielder Jasmine Pereira scored four times as New Zealand helped themselves to a more than comfortable 13-1 victory over strugglers New Caledonia at the Women’s U-17 Championship in Auckland.
As predicted here, the Young Football Ferns had no problem reaching double figures against a demoralized New Caledonia side who understandably began to give up hope with each New Zealand strike. As well as Pereira’s four-goal haul, forward Martine Puketapu bagged a hat-trick, with Emma Rolston also netting a brace.
The game couldn’t have begun much better for New Zealand: within a minute of kick-off, Emma Rolston’s inch-perfect through ball found Pereira, who finished from an acute angle. However, the expected avalanche of goals was interrupted by Noe Valefakaaga’s superb equaliser on eighteen minutes. The New Caledonia midfielder ran onto a through ball and was presented with a one-on-one opportunity thanks to Meikayla Moore’s untimely slip before side-footing a measured finish past the otherwise under-worked Lily Alfeld. New Caledonia celebrated wildly and may have begun to dream of a famous, unlikely result.
Unfortunately for Les Cagous, it was not to be. The New Caledonians enjoyed ten minutes of blissful stalemate before New Zealand regained the lead through Emma Rolston. From then on, the Young Football Ferns never looked likely to be caught, scoring twice more before half-time through goals from Pereira and Puketapu.
Nevertheless, New Zealand’s English coach Paul Temple must have demanded improvement at half-time – New Caledonia had given his side an almighty scare by drawing level and the need for more goals was clearly passed on to the players.
Just two minutes into the second half it was 5-1, and although New Caledonia reached the hour-mark with the score at a respectable 6-1, they fell apart in the final half-hour. Daisy Cleverly made it 7 with twenty minutes to play, before an incredible six goals in the last fifteen minutes added significant gloss to the scoreline. Pereira’s fourth of the game, a side-foot volley from Laura Merrin’s cross, was one of the best goals of the day, but Briar Palmer’s solo effort for the game’s final goal was even better – waltzing past three opposition defenders, Palmer planted the ball past beleaguered goalkeeper Deborah Selefen to end the game in style.
New Caledonia will have to pick themselves up for their final game, a clash with the Cook Islands on Friday. The Islands will be equally determined to finally get some points on the board, having lost both of their previous games.
Elsewhere, the Cook Islands ran Papua New Guinea close in a 3-2 loss, but the Reds probably deserved to win an entertaining encounter. Papua New Guinea opened the scoring on 21 minutes through Ramona Lorenz. Rumona Morris’ cross caused confusion as it evaded Cook Islands goalkeeper Moeroa Nootai, and Lorenz capitalized as defender Edna Teio failed to clear.
Lorenz doubled her team’s advantage with a close-range volley seven minutes later, but the Cook Islands replied ten minutes before half-time through Tepaeru Toka’s looping header. However, an equalizer looked unlikely and Papua New Guinea restored the two-goal gap on 52 minutes when Nootai failed to hold Georgina Kaitas’ shot. Although Tepaeru Toka gave her team hope with a well-taken goal with twenty minutes left, it was Papua New Guinea who looked more like scoring, with Lorenz firing an effort against the crossbar.
Having used all three substitutes, Thalitha Irakau’s injury ten minutes from the end meant that Papua New Guinea were a woman down for the closing moments, but they held out for a valuable win. Cook Islands coach Angela Valamaka said “Obviously we’re really disappointed – the girls played well, but the conditions and the physicality of the Papua New Guinea team was a bit too much for them today.”
Papua New Guinea’s tie with New Zealand on Friday will decide who represents Oceania at the U-17 World Cup in Azerbaijan later this year, but the Reds will enter as huge underdogs. New Zealand’s huge win over New Caledonia will add even more confidence to an already assured side, and Papua New Guinea will need to be more clinical to have any chance of upsetting the odds.
Watch highlights of Papua New Guinea’s win over Cook Islands here: