By HUXLEY LOVAI
SUBSTITUTE Tayla Christensen became a super-sub for New Zealand last night as they edged Ghana 1-0 in their opening game of the under-20 women’s soccer World Cup group C at the PNG Football Stadium.
Christensen struck the winner a minute from the end to give their country, shaken by a major earthquake in the wee hours of yesterday, something to cheer about.
She had gone on as a substitute and gave the Kiwis something to celebrate and take their minds off the natural disaster at home.
“The subs did really well, it shows the importance of having a good squad as opposed to a starting line-up,” New Zealand coach Leon Birnie said.
“With Tayla, she got herself into a great position and was composed enough to score the winning goal.
He said he was pleased with the composure shown by team.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” he said.
“We knew coming into the match that Ghana were a physical team and that they are all natural athletes.
“That caused us a lot of problems, especially in the first-half, to make sure we were resilient in the one-on-one situation,” Birnie said.
In a high-tempo and entertaining clash, both teams thrilled the crowd with attacking football.
New Zealand dominated the opening 10 minutes, before the Ghanaians started to impose themselves on the game using their power and pace.
Ghana’s Jane Ayieyam and Sandra Owusu-Ansah were a constant threat for the New Zealand defenders as they made piercing runs into the NZ half.
However, it was their poor execution that let them down at crucial moments.
New Zealand’s standout was forward Paige Satchell, who displayed great pace and ball control — troubling the Ghanaian defenders with virtually every run.
Despite the numerous chances created by both teams, the game was locked 0-0 at halftime.
The second half continued in the same vein, before New Zealand substitute forward Christensen drove past the Ghanaian ‘keeper to give her team a first-up victory.
New Zealand play the US, while Ghana face France at the same venue on Thursday.
By HUXLEY LOVAI