Papua New Guinea and Samoa are through to the semi-finals of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 after securing wins in the quarterfinals at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, Fiji.
PNG fought back from two goals down to lead in extra time, after Tonga stunned the top-ranked side with two first-half goals, before being forced to penalties where goalkeeper Fidelma Watpore was their hero.
Samoa overcame a determined New Caledonia side 4-2 with striker Jayda Steward scoring a hat-trick. Here are the match reports:
PNG v Tonga
PNG had won all three previous OFC Women’s Nations Cup meetings between these two sides, with Tonga failing to score in any of those fixtures. On the half-hour mark, Team Mataliki broke that record in sensational fashion.
It was a family affair, as Daviana Vaka took down twin sister Laveni’s long-ball before firing a vicious 35-yard strike over Watpore to secure a well-earned lead.
Despite their underdog tag Tonga continued to press forward and it was the imperious centre-back Laveni Vaka who grabbed another assist for Tonga’s second goal.
After a marauding run into the PNG half she chipped a perfectly weighted pass to Jazmine Loto’aniu, who fired home Tonga’s second to further stun the pre-tournament favourites.
PNG head coach Nicola Demaine attempted to stem the flow at half-time, but it was Connie Selby’s side who next had a chance to secure the win.
Loto’aniu hit her close-range opportunity straight at Watpore in the PNG goal after an electric counter-attack. It was a golden opportunity missed and PNG took full advantage as their substitutions began to pay dividends.
Half-time introduction Padio pulled her nation back into the game, reacting fastest to fire home after Tonga’s replacement goalkeeper Meleana Taufa had saved Meagen Gunemba’s effort.
Gunemba, another substitute, then pulled PNG level. Her corner-kick delivery evaded all-comers before finding its way beyond Taufa for the equaliser.
Gunemba’s ferocious free-kick and Marie Kaipu’s one-on-one shot were then well saved by Taufa, who was later fortunate her mistimed clearance was not punished by Kaipu, as PNG piled on the pressure.
Tonga held on until the end of normal time and Laveni Vaka again produced a tenacious piece of defending to deny Kaipu early in extra-time before Padio thought she had secured the win, heading home Charlie Yanding’s well-placed cross only for Tonga to produce more heroics.
Loto’aniu shrugged off her marker and hit a low powerful drive which snuck past Watpore’s near-post for her second goal of the game to take the tie to penalties.
After Daviana Vaka hit the post with Tonga’s second spot-kick Watpore was the hero, saving from Ofaloto La’akulu and Fololeni Siale for victory with her teammates mobbing their experienced stopper, knowing she had saved them from a shock exit.
Papua New Guinea will now play Samoa in the semi-finals on Wednesday, July 27 while Tonga, who only qualified for the quarter-finals by virtue of a better fair play record than Vanuatu, will be left disappointed but proud of their efforts.
Papua New Guinea head coach Nicola Demaine said Tonga showed real guts and played like they nothing to lose.
“You can’t fault Tonga. They put lots of balls forward, they knew what their strengths were and they played to them,” she said.
“But we have practiced a lot of penalties, with the walk and everything and I think that paid off today and you have got to take your hat off to the goalie Fidelma (Watpore).”
Tonga head coach Connie Selby said she was proud of the way the girls played.
“It is disappointing and the girls will be really disappointed but I think it is their best game of the tournament. I am just so proud of them. I think the country should be proud of them as well,” she said.
Samoa V New Caledonia
Jayda Stewart’s second-half hat-trick illuminated the HFC Bank Stadium as Samoa beat New Caledonia 4-2 in an exciting OFC Women’s Nations Cup quarter-final in Suva, Fiji.
Despite a brace from Sarah Uregei, New Caledonia were outdone by Stewart’s brilliance after Samoa captain Monique Fischer had earlier given her side the lead.
Four years ago, at the 2018 edition of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup, New Caledonia won this fixture 2-0 and looked more threatening early on, peppering the Samoa goal from long-range.
Samoa’s work was however looking more clinical and Fischer saw her near-post shot saved by Lorenza Hnamano.
New Caledonia’s tactic of pushing higher up the pitch was clearly paying off in attack, two snapshots from the edge of the box keeping Samoa goalkeeper Ronisa Lipi busy, but they were soon caught out defensively.
Stewart found her attacking partner Torijan Lyne-Lewis through on goal and when Hnamano failed to hold her powerful strike Samoa captain Fischer tapped home the rebound.
However, Michel Berbeche’s players showed in their previous fixture with the Solomon Islands that they are more than capable of a comeback and their response was swift.
Jennifer Neporo, the hero against the Solomons, delivered a cross into the box which goalkeeper Lipi could only palm into the path of Uregei, who obliged with the equaliser just shy of half-time.
New Caledonia had an early chance to take the lead in the second period but Uregei could only fire her effort straight at Lipi and Samoa punished the missed opportunity immediately.
Lipi’s drop-kick clearance was flicked on in audacious fashion by player of the match Lyne-Lewis, unleashing Stewart one-on-one with Hnamano.
The Samoa forward remained the coolest person in Suva, rounding the New Caledonia goalie before slotting home.
In Samoa’s opening game of the competition, a 2-0 win over Tonga, Stewart scored a candidate for goal of the tournament and she added another contender after 83 minutes.
The 20-year-old forward opened up space for herself 30-yards out from goal with a swift turn before hitting a dipping strike over Hnamano to extend Samoa’s lead.
New Caledonia were not willing to go down without a fight and Uregei smashed home a late half-volley in hope of setting up a tense finale.
However, Stewart would have the final say, when her smart touch and finish in stoppage time secured her treble and earned Samoa their first ever OFC Women’s Nations Cup semi-final.
Samoa will face Papua New Guinea on July 27.