Host nation Fiji suffered a 3-0 loss to defending champions New Zealand in their opening Group B match of the OFC Under 19 Women’s Championship at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva today.
The match started off on a fast pace with the New Zealanders launching early attacks on goal through Manaia Elliott, Marie Green and Rugby Nathan but all three missed scoring opportunities.
18-year-old Emma Pijnenburg broke the deadlock in the 14th minute after a through pass from Kiara Bercelli was flagged off by Ella Mccann to Pijnenburg and she blasted the ball into the right side of the net which goalkeeper Mereseini Waqali failed to stop.
Soon after, Digicel young Kula Girls coach Angeline Chua pulled out Sonia Alfred and replaced her with Narita Leba to add more force to the attack of the Fijian side.
Five minutes later, New Zealand struck again through Elliott but this time the ball hit the post and landed on the foot of Asela Cokanasiga and she cleared it away.
The match took a slight turn in the 26th minute when Fiji started to display more attacking football as the United States of America-based Preeya Chandra took a powerful shot but it landed in the hands of Aimee Feinberg-Danieli.
Substitute Leba could have leveled for Fiji in the 29th minute but her powerful shot hit the crossbar and Feinberg-Danieli jumped into the air to collect the ball.
In the 38th minute, match official David Yareboinen, who is not new to Fiji, flashed the first yellow card of the match to Ba and Kula Girls midfielder Angeline Rekha for kicking down Elliott in the 38th minute.
New Zealand led 1-0 at the break.
The second half was pretty tense and tight with both coaches ringing in changes and sending fresh players to keep the tempo of the game up.
Fiji introduced the likes of Seruwaia Laulaba and Evivi Buka in place of Seini Vulagi and Ema Mereia while New Zealand fielded Alexis Cook and Helena Errington in place of Kiara Bercelli and Charlotte Mortlock.
New Zealand doubled their lead in the 65th minute through a free kick when a Fijian player fouled Ruby Nathan.
Marie Green took the free kick which Waqali pushed away but it landed on the feet of Rebekah Trewhitt and she powered into the net leaving the Fijian defence and goalkeeper stunned.
Two minutes later, Fijian substitute Vulagi also copped a yellow card for an intentional foul play on a New Zealand player.
New Zealand coach Leon Birnie pushed further changes as skipper Zoe McMeeken and Ella Mccann were replaced by Suya Hearing and Zoe Benson.
The fresh legs added immediate power play to the Kiwi strike force which saw Trewhitt pull her second goal in the 73rd minute after a blunder in the Fijian defence.
New Zealand’s Nathan was awarded a yellow card for a foul play on Fiji’s Pijila Kilaiwaca in the 76th minute.
New Zealand will take on Papua New Guinea at 4pm on Sunday while Fiji will face Papua New Guinea at 4pm next Wednesday.
Meanwhile Fiji’s Rekha scooped the Player of the Match award.
New Zealand: Aimee Feinberg-Danieli (GK), Ella McMillan, Marie Green, Zoe McMeeken (C), Charlotte Mortlock (Helena Erringto), Rugby Nathan, Manaia Elliott, Kiara Bercelli (Helena Errington), Emma Pijnenburg, Ella Mccann, Rebekah Trewhitt.
Reserves: Charlotte Eagle, Suya Hearing, Helena Errington, Lara Copli, Aexis Cook, Danielle Canham, Zoe Benson.
Fiji: Mereseini Waqali (GK), Adi Bakaniceva (C), Asela Cokanasiga, Pijila Kilaiwaca, Luse Ratulele, Ema Mereia (Evivi Buka), Seini Vulagi (Seruwaia Laulaba), Kasanita Tabua, Preeya Chandra, Angeline Rekha, Sonia Alfred (Narieta Leba).
Reserves: Auhtum Underwood, Rosi Marama, Seruwaia Laulaba, Irinieta Wati, Timaima Wati, Rebecca McGoon, Adi Mateni, Evivi Buka, Rosalain Saraphina, Risha Naresh, Talica Tagi.