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New Zealand in Pole Position in Oceania Football Confederation

by Jeremy Mogi – EM TV Sports, Port Moresby

Defending champions New Zealand got their 2015 Oceania Football Confederation Under-20s Women’s Championship off to an ideal start with a 15-0 win over Tonga, while in the second game of the day Vanuatu tasted their first ever win at the tournament, beating New Caledonia 4-0.

New Zealand were in fine form at the Loto-Tonga Soka Centre, with no fewer than four players registering hat-tricks at the expense of the host nation.

Coach Leon Birnie says those individual performances, coupled with the impact delivered by his substitutes, formed the main highlights of the big victory.

Despite always dominating possession in the match, New Zealand struggled to make ground in the attacking third through the early exchanges, while their long balls were playing perfectly into the plan of the deep-set Tonga formation.

But as the match went on the Kiwis started to click, and on 19 minutes got on the board via 2014 OFC U-20 Women’s Championship Golden Boot winner Emma Rolston.

On the half hour, winger Paige Satchell helped double the lead, breaking free down the left side and passing for captain Jasmine Pereira to finish.

That seemed to inspire some confidence in the New Zealand frontline and in the following four minutes they netted twice through Isabella Coombes.

Before the half was up, Coombes had a hat-trick, while some individual brilliance from midfielder Daisy Cleverley saw her beat her marker inside the box and finish from an acute angle.

Pereira got her double in the first minute of additional time to leave New Zealand 7-0 up at the break.

The second period saw no reprieve for Penateti Feke’s side, as Rolston grabbed her second on 48 minutes.

But while plenty of New Zealand chances were finding the back of the net, just as many were going without reward, thanks to Tonga goalkeeper Mele Akolo.

The introduction of Michaela Robertson at half time delivered spark for New Zealand, as the speedy winger caused chaos with her diagonal running.

And after Pereira had her shot deflected on 62 minutes, it was Robertson who followed up for an easy tap in at the back post.

Two minutes later Pereira had another of her own, heading over the top of Akolo to take the lead out to 10-0.

Another floating Robertson cross was finished well by Rolston a short time later, followed by further strikes from Cleverley and Jale.

Despite the scoreline, Tonga refused to back down and some clever defending from Heilala Moala closed down a number of likely chances.

Jale added another to her tally to cap a strong U-20 debut on 82 minutes, and in the first minute of added time Cleverley joined three of her teammates in securing a hat-trick on the day.

Feke said her side’s inability to play to instructions were ultimately their downfall today.

The second match of the afternoon saw Vanuatu produce a second-half blitz to down New Caledonia 4-0.

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