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Bonus football

Papua New Guinea 4, Tonga 1
Ngahue Reserve, Auckland, July 17 2017

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Ok, I admit it. I stuffed up again. I turned up to a football game without checking the schedule before I left home. For the umpteenth time.

I arrived at Ngahue Reserve at 9:30am on Monday all ready for New Zealand v New Caledonia in the Oceania u19 Women’s Championships at 10am, only to find the carpark strangely relatively empty.

“Where is everyone” I wondered aloud to myself.

*checks schedule*

“Ah…”

New Zealand v New Caledonia was actually at 12:30pm. Papua New Guinea v Tonga was the 10am game.

You would think I would learn, but then again if I did I wouldn’t have all these self-depreciating stories to fill column inches. And, in this instance, my idiocy also meant I got to take in another game of football on top of the one I had come to see! Every cloud…

In a way it was good for me. Not that I’m likely to have finally learned my lesson about checking schedules, but more that I should be going to at least one game at this tournament that doesn’t feature New Zealand. Because to only watch New Zealand would be to miss out on what is probably the best part of the thing.

I doubt any of the island teams get a heck of a lot out of the double digit thrashings they tend to receive at the hands of the Ferns, but they probably do enjoy playing each other in much closer games against possibly more traditional rivals – certainly in the case of Samoa v Tonga for example.

Papua New Guinea seem to be considered the second best women’s football nation in Oceania (Wikipedia says so, therefore it must be true) while Tonga were rooted to the bottom of the table going into this match so it was probably fair to surmise that PNG were warm favourites to take this one out. And they were perceptibly stronger but they certainly didn’t have it all their own way. Both sides showed flashes of nice play even if the whole thing was a little bit unvarnished.

The underdogs got themselves off to a flying start in just the sixth minute with a lovely counter attacking goal. Captain Halaunga Taholo received the ball in right midfield before delivering a curling ball around a central defender and into the path of Mele Kafa who picked her spot and eased her shot home.

PNG got their equaliser ten minutes later when Selina Unamba was released into space deep in the penalty area on the left and hit the middle of the side netting inside the far post.

Thirteen minutes after that and six before the break Ramona Padio needed two bites to beat Tongan keeper Mele Akolo, but beat her she did with a dinky little chip over her head to give PNG a 2-1 lead at half-time.

Their third came in the 51st minute after a number of attempts were kept out by some desperate Tongan defending before Padio eventually emerged from the melee to bludgeon home.

PNG continued to dominate proceedings for the rest of the game but couldn’t get much venom in their shots until the 88th minute when Nicollete Ageva received the ball with the keeper wrong-footed and slotted an easy goal to bring us to the final score.

I can’t say that’s the game I would have picked if I’d had a choice of any non-New Zealand game to take in, but it picked me and I’m glad it did. Now I’m looking forward to Friday, which is the last day of action I am able to get to before I have to go back to work, when hopefully the Junior Ferns will wrap up their World Cup qualification.

Categories: Football Ferns

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Enzo Giordani

A grassroots football enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent club on earth - A.S. Roma. More info (including e-mail address) can be found here: https://in-the-back-of-the.net/about/

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