[Source: OFC Media via Christophe Fotozz]
Hosts Tahiti came from 2-1 down to overcome Tonga and clinch top spot in Group A at the OFC U-16 Women’s Championship.
Tema Tonga’s first-half free-kick was cancelled out by a second-half strike from Turere Tupahururu before Willany Kautai thundered a header home to seal all three points in front of a raucous home crowd.
Aside from Tema Tonga’s elusive free-kick to give her side the lead, the opening period was low on chances, with Tahiti enjoying lengthy periods of possession and territorial advantage but struggling to convert it into clear-cut chances.
In fact, it was Tonga almost taking the early lead against the run of play when Tamaa Faletau was played through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat but was denied by an outstanding recovery tackle by Tahiti defender Heivanui Taae.
At the other end, captain Aranui Le Gayic looked Tahiti’s most dangerous outlet but despite some dangerous deliveries into the box from the right-hand channel, she couldn’t find a team mate to apply the killer touch.
Maerehia Dehors’ effort from a free-kick on the left-hand side was well struck but with too much elevation to trouble the Tongan net.
The crucial goal arrived with only minutes remaining of the half. Captain Tema Tonga stood over a set piece on the far left edge of the box and her whipped effort evaded opponent and team mate alike, curling up and over Oferina Taerea in the Tahiti goal before nestling in the far corner.
The second-half followed a similar pattern with Tahiti taking control and Tonga continuing to threaten on the counter attack.
Dehors threatened again at the hour mark from distance with a well hit effort but her strike cleared the crossbar.
Minutes later and the hosts got their equaliser. Ana Kafoa struggled to gather a cross from the right and substitute Turere Tupahururu was on hand to bundle the ball in from close range
Le Gayic then came within inches of giving her side the lead but despite her hooked effort beating the goalkeeper, it landed agonisingly onto the top of the the crossbar.
The hosts held on and will now face Group B’s second place side in the semi-finals this weekend. As for Tonga, they will be drawn against Group B winners – to be confirmed in tomorrow’s action.