The National, Monday January 25th, 2016
PAPUA New Guinea put on a brave performance but in the end fell 7-1 to a classy and clinical New Zealand side in opening leg of the 2016 Oceania Football Confederation Women’s Olympic Qualifier in Lae on Saturday.
In hot and humid conditions, the New Zealanders were patient, but unrelenting as they got their bid to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games underway with coach Tony Reading praising his team for coming through considering the conditions.
“It’s never easy coming here as PNG always come, they always fight and never give up. We were 7-0 up but they never stopped and got a goal from that hard work,” he said.
“The temperatures here as well, I think it’s the hottest it’s been for us in 10 years and the highest temperatures we’ve ever played in. But we didn’t stop, we kept playing, kept trying to score and never took our foot off the pedal either. “I’m really happy with the win and really happy with the performance as well.”
For Papua New Guinea coach Rachel Wadunah, who was appointed to the job three months ago, it was disappointing because her side did not to get an historic win on home soil but the second leg would now be all the more daunting.
She was pleased with the players and the way they approached a difficult challenge overall.
“I’m very happy with my girls. Although New Zealand were the better team, my girls played right from the beginning to the end and never gave up,” Wadunah said.
“I was also very impressed with the bench, they went in there and made an impact.
“There are certain good things they did in there but there are also things we need to work on.” The New Zealanders took their time establishing the rhythm of the game, playing out from the back and looking for ways to get in behind the PNG defence.
Annalie Longo, who was outstanding, dominated the midfield and the added width provided by Ali Riley and Ria Percival helped make life difficult their opponents.
A classy set-piece from New Zealand on the 20 minute-mark was sent high into the box by Percival, dropping in front of goal for Amber Hearn to tuck away.
It only took the Ferns a couple of minutes to hit in a second with Rebekah Stott adding her name to the scoresheet.
The third goal came a further five minutes later as New Zealand’s continued pressure in the middle resulted in Longo adding some individual mastery to the match, taking a couple of touches before unleashing a cracker shot past a helpless Fidelma Watpore in goal for the home side.
In just her second appearance for the senior side, newbie Aimee Phillips got a well-deserved goal as she tapped in a cross at the back post to take New Zealand to a four-goal lead going into the break.
Less than ten minutes into the second half Longo was back leading the goal scoring charge with another solo effort resulting in New Zealand’s fifth goal of the match. Captain Abby Erceg headed in a free kick, while the seventh goal was a close range volley from Hearn.
Second-half substitute Meagan Gunemba broke past the Ferns defence with 12 minutes remaining in the match to nick a consolation goal for her side. While PNG never gave up despite falling so far behind, it all proved too little too late as the Football Ferns now take a 7-1 advantage into Leg 2 in Auckland, New Zealand in three days’ time.
The second leg of the 2016 OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier stage 2 playoff will be at QBE Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand tomorrow, with kick-off at 7.30pm (5.30pm PNG time).