New Zealand off to flying start with big win at OFC U-16 Women’s Championship

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New Zealand have opened their defence of their OFC U-16 Women’s Championship title with a convincing 12-0 win over the Cook Islands in the Group B opener in Papeete.

The winner of the tournament in Tahiti will qualify for the 2024 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup to be held in the Dominican Republic.

The Cook Islands got off to the worst possible start when defender Maara Teariki headed into the back of her own net attempting to clear a cross.

Laura Bennett should have made it two a minute later when the 14-year-old burst through on goal but pulled her shot across the goal and just wide.

Cook Islands keeper Vahine Uini then made a superb save do deny Angela Pivac. The New Zealanders dominated possession with Amber De Wit a constant menace in midfield. But they couldn’t quite nail the final pass on numerous occasions they were caught offside.

It took until the 26th minute for New Zealand to add to their advantage when Putri Ardana ran onto a through ball and rifled the ball into the left-hand corner of the net.

Seven minutes later, Angela Pivac made it three after a lovely ball from De Wit who added a fourth a minute later with a lovely strike past the advancing Uini in the Cook Islands goal.

Laura Bennett scored the fifth goal in the 39th minute with superb strike following a wonderfully timed pass from Ardana. Bennett then fired a bullet past Uini on the stroke of half-time for New Zealand’s sixth of the game.

Cook Islands clear the ball against New Zealand. Photo credit: OFC Media / Christophe Fotozz.

New Zealand coach Leon Birnie made four changes at half-time with a comfortable lead. Substitute Ella Jerez almost got in on the action with a powerful strike in the 52nd minute.

The Cook Islands had their best chance to get on the scoreboard in the 54th minute when Tatjiana Areai sliced her attempted shot wide of the upright.

The Cook Islands defended strongly and kept New Zealand at bay for the next 20 minutes but in the 68th minute, Bennett had her hat-trick with an audacious strike into the top corner of the net from the edge of the penalty box.

Pia Vlok then delivered a peach of a ball with the outside of her foot to play in another substitute Jerez who fired past a hapless Uini.

Three minutes later 14-year-old Katie Pugh got in the action to make it 9-0 before Bennett scored her fourth in the 81st minute.

Vlok finished superbly to get on the scoresheet in the 84th minute as New Zealand turned it on in the closing stages against a tired Cook Islands defence. Bennett brought up her fifth goal to complete the rout.

Main photo credit: OFC Media / Christophe Fotozz.

Acknowledgement: Match report provided by OFC Media.

New Zealand starting line-up. Photo credit: OFC Media / Christophe Fotozz.

Watch the highlights

Watch the match


Games played on Friday September 15, 2023

New Zealand 12 (own goal 6′, Putri Ardana 26’, Angela Pivac 33’, Amber de Wit 34’, Laura Bennett 39’, 45’, 68’, 81’, 86′, Ella Jerez 73’, Katie Pugh 76’, Pia Vlok 84′)
Cook Islands 0

Fiji 11 (Makareta Theresa 2’, Sisilia Kuladina 8’, 55’, Elesi Tabunase 26’, 48’, Luse Ratulele 27’, 80’, 89′, Caroline Qalivere 55’, Kasanita Tabua 86′, 90+3′)
Vanuatu 3 (Valerie Tari 36’, Morin Takau 68,’ 82’)

Pool B

Games played on Thursday September 14, 2023

New Caledonia 0
Tahiti 0

Tonga 5 (Tamaa Faletau 26’, 30’, 40’, 54’, 59’)
Solomon Islands 1 (Gracester Kini 74′)

Pool A

New Zealand squad

Putri Ardana (Auckland United)
Laura Bennett (Melville United)
Mackenzie Bryant (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Sophie Campbell (Palmerston North Marist)
Isla Cleall-Harding (Taradale AFC)
Amber De Wit (Nomads United)
Charli Dunn (Western Springs)
Alyssha Eglinton (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Emily Humphrey (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Ela Jerez (Western Springs)

Kara McGillivray (Auckland United)
Kyra Morgan (Western Suburbs)
Brooke Neary (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Angela Pivac (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Katie Pugh (Nelson Suburbs)
Holly Robins (Wellington Phoenix Academy)
Hannah Saxon (Eastern Suburbs)
Pia Vlok (Auckland United)
Natalie Young (Hamilton Wanderers)

Tournament details

READ MORE: Draw and tournament format for OFC U-16 Women’s Championship >>>>

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