[Source: OFC Media via Christophe Fotozz]
New Caledonia scored late on to secure a draw against the Solomon Islands but it wasn’t enough to advance to the semi-finals at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship 2023.
The 1-1 draw at Stade Pater sees New Caledonia finish third in Group A on 3 points with the Solomon Islands picking up a solitary point. It means Tonga and hosts Tahiti advance to the semi finals from Group A with first and second in the Group determined by the outcome of their match this evening (7pm Tahiti time)
Gracester Kini’s left-footed strike from the edge of the box gave the Solomon Islands a shock 72nd lead before a New Caledonia onslaught almost won them the match.
The opening 45 minutes lacked rhythm and accuracy, with both sides trying to establish a pattern of play. Solomon Islands shaded the possession and territory stats in the early going but failed to sufficiently test Alesié Adjou in the New Caledonian goal.
Lilli-Jade Nonia looked threatening on the Solomon’s right-hand side, twice getting in behind the defensive line but on both occasions failing to find a team mate with her delivery into the area.
Hellen Reubinson and then Gertrude Oritaimae had efforts on goal in quick succession but both were dealt with easily by Adjou.
New Caledonia slowly grew into the encounter, in no small part thanks to their captain Julia Honakoko. The midfielder was at the heart of each attack with her range of passing exposing large areas in behind the Solomon’s defence.
The breakthrough almost came on the half-hour mark after New Caledonia won a free-kick on the edge of the penalty area to the right-hand side. Betty Oriana was booked for the infringement and watched on as Alofa Hmaen’s rasping effort was tipped onto the crossbar by Solomon’s goalkeeper Fiona Goroani. The keeper then palmed away the loose ball on the follow up as her defence eventually hacked clear.
The New Caledonian’s ended the half the stronger side, with Honakoko cutting back for Hmaen to fire over before the captain herself saw an effort blaze high over the crossbar.
The second-half started the way the first ended, with New Caledonia on top and spending most of their time deep in the Solomon Islands half. Firstly Henako Wahnawe and then Cina Kourevi having efforts comfortably saved when well placed.
Honakoko followed up with a drilled effort of her own from the edge of the box – seemingly goal-bound until a spectacular save from Goroani, tipping the ball onto the frame of the goal for a second time.
When the breakthrough did come it was most certainly against the run of play. Gracester Kini found space on the edge of the New Caledonia box and showed great composure to turn onto her left foot and fire across Adjou and into the far corner.
New Caledonia had the perfect opportunity to strike back almost immediately. Kourevi latched onto a loose back pass but after Goroani missed her clearance, the substitute could only slice her effort wide with the goal at her mercy.
Having gone close on a number of occasions as the minutes ticked down, New Caledonia finally got their leveller. Solomon Islands surrendered possession following a short goal kick and Henako Wahnawe stole in to fire past Goroani to grab the equaliser.
Then with a minute remaining in added time, Kourevi had the chance to win the game from the penalty spot and keep New Caledonia in the hunt for the semi-finals but her effort was well saved by Goroani.