Early goals enough to see the Ferns through Olympic qualifier against Tonga

Three goals in the opening 16 minutes were enough to get New Zealand past Tonga in their opening game at the OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier tournament in Samoa.

Goals from Grace Jale (2) and a penalty from Ally Green provided a 3-0 win against a determined Tonga side who resisted strongly after the initial onslaught from the Football Ferns.

Main photo: Grace Jale (18) is congratulated by teammates after scoring for New Zealand. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

The New Zealanders got off to a flying start, going ahead after only 90 seconds.

Debutant midfielder Macey Fraser struck a well-weighted chip onto the Tongan crossbar, and the ball fell kindly for striker Jale to steer it into the net.

New Zealand doubled their lead in the 12th minute when Mackenzie Barry was brought down as she dribbled into the area, prompting referee Ben Aukwai to point to the penalty spot.

Green took responsibility for the spot kick, despatching it into the bottom corner to score her first goal at full international level.

Four minutes later, Fraser split the Tongan defence with a pass from inside her own half, allowing Jale to slip the ball past ‘keeper Madison Tenifa to put New Zealand 3-0 up.

Grace Jale lines up her shot to put New Zealand 3-0 up.

With the game barely a quarter over, the Ferns looked capable of racking up a big margin victory.

But the Tongans had other ideas.

In goal, Tenifa made several excellent saves — two in quick succession to deny Ava Collins, and another to clean up a long-range strike from Fraser.

The 30+ degree heat and 80% humidity took its toll, and the pace of the game slowed.

In the second half, Tonga’s line-up started to gel with their North American imports settling in.

READ MORE: Tonga import players from America for Olympic qualifier against Ferns >>>>

Though New Zealand had most of the possession and territorial advantage, the Tongans worked tirelessly to disrupt their opponents.

Poor finishing by the Ferns did not help.

Though the Ferns’ performance clearly has room for improvement, the team did enough to start the tournament with a win, learning to cope with the playing conditions.

Goalkeeper Brianna Edwards enjoyed a Ferns debut where she was a virtual spectator, keeping a clean sheet against a Tongan side that barely mustered an attack.

Player of the Match

Debutant Macey Fraser was Player of the Match.


Games played on Wednesday February 7, 2024

RESULTS: Opening games at OFC Women’s Olympic Qualifier tournament >>>>

Group B

New Zealand 3 (Grace Jale 2′, 16′, Ally Green 13′ pen)
Tonga 0

Samoa 1 (Leah Manuleleua 90+5′ pen)
Vanuatu 0



Tonga’s Olympic qualifier squad. Photo credit: Tonga Football Association.


Madison Tenifa (GK), Lavinia Afu, Ana Lauteau, Melaia Polovili, Telusila Vunipola, Lositika Feke (captain) (Leeann Taufa Ao 88′), Ana Polovili (Tamaa Faletau 88′), Eden Makaafi, Leila Hausia-Haugen, Fololeni Filitonga, Meleseini Tufui (Lisimani Helu 29′, Sachi Swift 59′).

Subs not used: Kalolaine Topui (GK), Hehea Taufa (GK), Seini Lutu, Latusiu Lomu, Siunipia Ta-Lasingam, Lusitania Koloa, Oro Ta Ufo’ou.


Yellow: Lauteau 56′

New Zealand’s starting line-up against Tonga.

New Zealand

Brianna Edwards (GK), Liz Anton, Mackenzie Barry (Michaela Foster 46′), Claudia Bunge, Rebekah Stott (captain) (Katie Bowen 62′), Daisy Cleverley (Kate Taylor 62′), Ava Collins (Betsy Hassett 73′), Macey Fraser, Ally Green (Indiah-Paige Riley 83′), Grace Jale, Ruby Nathan.

Sub not used: Anna Leat (GK), Gabi Rennie.


Yellow: Green 61′


Referee: Ben Aukwai (Solomon Islands)
Assistant referees: Natalia Lumukana, Jeffery Solodia (Solomon Islands)
Fourth official: Shama Maemae (Solomon Islands)
Fifth official: Stephanie Minan (Papua New Guinea)
Referee assessor: Rakesh Varman (Fiji)
Match commissioner: Amitesh Pal (Fiji)

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