An injury-time goal by Katie Pugh broke the hearts of Fijian players and officials as New Zealand booked its place in next year’s FIFA U17 World Cup in Dominica Republic.
The grand final of the OFC Under 16 Women’s Championship in Papeete, Tahiti today was contested well by the Fijians who played their hearts out and displayed a much improved performance compared to their clash against New Zealand in group stage which they lost 4-1.
New Zealand started the final brighter and dominated possession in the opening stages.
To their credit, Fiji were resolute and well-drilled and it was notable that the Kiwis were struggling to string passes together in the manner seen earlier in the tournament.
Pugh went closest to opening the score in the first half when played through the centre but her left-footed shot cannoned back off the post.
There was a scrappiness to most of the opening 45 minutes, which appeared to suit Angeline Chua’s junior Kulas as they kept New Zealand at bay.
Goalkeeper Rosalain Sarahphina quick off her mark on a number of occasions, diving at the feet of her opponents to snuff out any attack.
Pugh had another half-chance late in the period, rounding Sarahphina but being unable to convert when the angle narrowed and Fijian defenders managed to clear the ball away.
With a little under 15 minutes remaining, Pugh once again found herself playing in but Sarahphina smothered at her feet well, taking a knock for her troubles.
With the seconds ticking down and extra time looming large, New Zealand finally found the breakthrough.
Ela Jerez brought the ball down and slid a perfect slide-rule pass to Pugh and the forward expertly slotted past Saraphina to win it for the Kiwis.
Meanwhile Fiji’s Seruwaia Laulaba won the Golden Ball award while goalkeeper Saraphina scooped the Golden Glove.
Fiji- Rosalain Saraphina (GK), Seruwaia Laulaba, Caroline Qalivere, Luse Ratulele, Shania Singh, Sisilia Kuladina, Elesi Tabunase, Kasanita Tabua (C), Torika Drosiniwai, Annie Finau, Adi Covunisiqa.
Subs: Loata Rokodrakia, Miriama Rokovasa, Flora Dilolu, Honey Koula, Ulamila Rosovasova, Sereima Nauci, Grace Lakavutu, Sonia Singh.
New Zealand- Sophie Campbell (GK), Charli Dunn (C), Emily Humprey, Hanna Saxon, Laura Bennett, Alyssha Eglinton, Kara McGailliary, Amber De Wit, Natalie Young, Katie Ough, Ela Jerez.
Subs: Holly robins, Angela Pivac, Pia Vlok, Putri Ardana, Kyra Morgan, Isla Cleall-Harding.