RESULTS: Potential semi-finalists emerge at OFC Women’s Champions League

A three-way race has emerged to qualify from Group A at the OFC Women’s Champions League being held in the Solomon Islands.

Hekari United (Papua New Guinea), Tafea (Cook Islands) and Henderson Eels (Solomon Islands) are all in with a chance of going through to semi-finals after Wednesday’s results from the tournament.

Main photo: Though Avatiu (blue) are out of the running, they still enjoyed the thrill of scoring at the tournament. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

Last year’s runners-up met this year’s hosts as Hekari United overpowered Henderson Eels to register their first win at the OFC Women’s Champions League in what is turning out to be a tightly contested Group A in Honiara.

It turned out to be a game as eye-catching as the teams’ respective kits – Hekari United clad in highlighter red, Henderson in a high-viz green.

The Papua New Guinea side came to the party with attacking flair but initially lacked the composure to finish the chances they created, with shots rushed and the final ball snatched.

As in their opener against Tafea, Hekari posed the most danger down the left flank, with Marie Kaipu and Phylis Pala playing off each other as they tried to unpick the Eels’ defence.

The arrival of the day’s first rain brought with it a temporary reprieve from the humidity and coincided with Hekari striking the opening goal.

It was a lovely cross from Michaelyne Butubu on the byline, finding Hekari captain and talisman Marie Kaipu in the penalty area, who finished emphatically, to cheers from the Papua New Guinea club’s fans echoing across Lawson Tama.

Henderson had a chance to equalise in the 35th minute when Ella Vakatao broke free on a quick counter attack, splitting the Hekari centre-backs, but her lobbed effort sailed just over Fidelma Watpore’s net.

Hekari players celebrate in the rain. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

Eels continued to apply the pressure, and were narrowly denied an equaliser as the clock ticked into added time.

Georgina Bakani brought Madeleine Arakau down just as Monday’s goalscorer looked certain to bypass the Hekari defence, receiving a yellow card for her troubles. Edith Nari thought she’d restored parity for her side as Watpore fumbled the ball on the line, but the ‘keeper reacted in time to regain control before the ball crossed the chalk.

Early into the second period and Hekari United crucially extended their advantage. Anashtasia Gunemba capitalising on Eels goalkeeper Betty Sade’s error to double her sides’ lead and all but put the match beyond the host nation team.

Henderson Eels worked hard to try and find a way back into the match, with forwards Arukau and Vakatao running tirelessly when released by their midfield on the counter attack, but too often they lacked support and were unable to create chances of note.

Hekari United sealed the result in the 90th minute after a perfectly calculated free-kick from Christie Maneu sailed past the outstretched arms of Sade to give last year’s runners-up an excellent chance of making the semi-finals and the potential to go one better than in 2023.

Tafea register first win at OFC Women’s Champions League

Two late goals have secured Tafea FC their first win at the OFC Women’s Champions League, overcoming Avatiu FC 4-2 at Lawson Tama Stadium.

With qualification for the semi-finals on the line and both teams chasing their first win of the competition, game one of match day three was a must-win for Tafea FC and Avatiu FC.

After going down 2-0 to Henderson Eels in their opening game, but having a day’s less rest than her opponents, Avatiu head coach Mii Savage would nevertheless have been hoping for a reaction from her players and a reaction is what she got, as the Cook Islands team took an early lead.

In the sixth minute, holding midfielder Kimberley Uini spotted Nettie Kalsau off her line and lobbed her from distance, shocking Tafea and delighting Savage. Her middle name might be Lucky, but this was all skill from the 17-year-old, whose composed finish is surely a contender for goal of the tournament.

Taking the lead galvanised Avatiu, though Tafea were determined to hit back strongly and after the drinks break the Vanuatu side upped the ante, venturing into Avatiu’s half constantly.

They had a couple of opportunities on the half-hour mark, but Tafea FC star Diana Sine was unable to capitalise. Her persistence was rewarded however, as she pinched the ball deep in Avatiu territory, before burying it past Meripa Seumanutafa.

Sine then doubled her tally in stoppage time, with Leimata Simon slipping a great ball through for the forward, who initially lost her footing but improvised with a flick to secure a 2-1 lead going into the break.

Tafea … first-time winners at the tournament. Photo credit: OFC Media / Phototek.

Avatiu started the second half as they did the first, Uini scoring early for second just over 5 minutes into the period with a spectacular long range goal that lopped Tafea FC goalkeeper Kalsau.

Tafea went on the attack after conceding, flooding both flanks as they searched for the goal to restore their lead, with Henriette Sangul coming the closest for the Vanuata side, but her 67th-minute effort from the edge of the box flashed wide.

Avatiu were packing the box and sitting deep, forcing Tafea into taking low-percentage long-range shots that Seumanutafa could comfortably gather.

With the minutes ticking down, Tafea finally got their breakthrough. It was a classy team goal finished by Jane Alatoa that started with ‘keeper Kalsau, who had been largely rendered a spectator for much of the second half.

The Vanuatu international demonstrated her close control and quick feet, wrong-footing two Avatiu defenders before firing past Seumanutafa, much to the delight of the Vanuatu contingent in the stands.

The action wasn’t over just yet, as Alatoa added the cherry on top for Tafea FC, pouncing on a loose ball, before rifling into the top corner, securing a deserved 4-2 victory.


We acknowledge the assistance of OFC Media in providing our reports from the Solomon Islands.


Games played on Wednesday March 13, 2024

Group A

Tafea 4 (Diana Sine 35’, 45+3’, Jane Alatoa 85′, 90+6′)
Avatiu 2 (Kimberly Uini 6’, 51’)

Henderson Eels 0
Hekari United 3 (Marie Kaipu 20’, Anashtasia Gunemba 53’, Christie Maneu 90’)



Games to be played on Thursday March 14, 2024

AS Academy Féminine (New Caledonia) v Auckland United (NZ)
National Stadium, Honiara, Solomon Islands, 2pm (NZT)

Labasa (Fiji) v Veitongo (Tonga)
National Stadium, Honiara, Solomon Islands, 5pm (NZT)


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