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PNG open OFC Women’s Nations Cup with win

It was a positive return to the international stage for Papua New Guinea who have been relatively inactive since a 2016 Olympic Women’s Football Tournament play-off match against New Zealand back in January 2016.

Although both sides started reasonably well, with Samoa looking pretty comfortable in possession and even testing goalkeeper Faith Kasiray on a couple of occasions, it was Papua New Guinea who took the honour of the competition’s opening goal.

Kasiray lofted the ball forward and as Mariecamilla Ah Ki tried to control on the bounce, striker Meagen Gunemba whipped the ball off her and slotted past an advancing Meripa Seumanutafa, in goal for the Samoans.

PNG captain Sandra Birum’s quick thinking saw her win the ball in midfield, she then played through for Gunemba who powered the ball into the back of the net for her second goal just five minutes later.

Former U-20 women’s captain Yvonne Gabong nipped in behind the defender to connect with a cross and head it neatly into the net in the 27thminute.

Samoa started to tire in the second half but continued to give their all on the pitch but Papua New Guinea were soon flexing their scoring muscles once more when Gunemba secured her hat-trick with a lob past the advancing Seumanutafa.

The side then rounded out the encounter late in the second half when Marie Kaipu’s powerful shot came off the crossbar, falling neatly for Rayleen Bauelua to tap in.

Papua New Guinea coach Peter Gunemba wasn’t sure what to expect going into the game, but thought his side met a strong opponent who made some trouble for his charges at times.

“I was a bit surprised to see Samoa playing very well with good tactics, they hold the ball very well, but the execution was a bit of a problem for them,” he said of the opposition.

But looking at his own side he had a couple of reasons to be proud.

Daughter Meagen scored both the match, and tournament opener and went on to seal a hat-trick making for one happy coach, and proud father.

“As a coach I’m very pleased with the players because we scored five goals but there’s so many things we need to correct to be a perfect football team.

“At the same time I was very pleased with Meagen. I expected her to score goals, but three is enough for her. Then we can look forward to if she can score in the next two games.”

Making her debut as a national team coach, Nicola Demaine thought the commitment from her side was exactly what she asked for.

“I asked them to give 100 per cent and I can’t fault them on that. Everyone out there when you see them cramping up they’ve obviously given 100 per cent.

“It was a good effort, there was just some execution lacking in the tactic – three weeks together they’re going to forget to do some things on the field – but the second half they stepped it up. It was a much closer game, much more control so I’m pleased with that progress but obviously disappointed with the overall result.”

Samoa weren’t without their chances in the match and were incredibly unlucky to be denied by the woodwork at least on three occasions. Demaine’s response to that showed a loss didn’t dampen her sense of humour as she noted the goals “must be smaller in New Caledonia”.

The OFC Women’s Nations Cup action continues today in Nouméa where the four Group B teams will get their campaigns underway at Stade Numa Daly.

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