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Hekari United And Tafea FC Qualify For Semi-finals At OFC Women's Champions League

The Papua New Guinea champions struck early through their excellent captain Marie Kaipu, who wrong footed Avatiu captain Susan Williams, cutting the ball onto her left foot and curling a wonderful effort from just inside the penalty area to open the scoring in the seventh minute.

Hekari continued to apply pressure to Avatiu’s defence, with Penina Katuke on hand to make a goal line clearance to deny Anashtasia Gunemba after she rounded Meripa Seumanutafa and had an empty net to aim for.

Gunemba and Kaipu then combined to secure Hekari’s second of the match. Kaipu this time the provider, crossing for Gunemba to double her team’s lead with a close range finish.

Less than a minute later, Maneu added her side’s third, chipping Seumanutafa from a tight angle to put the result beyond doubt for Hekari United with 45 minutes still to play.

Kaipu scored quickly in the second half, tapping in from close range in the 51st minute as the Avatiu defence failed to clear from the danger zone. She narrowly missed securing her hat-trick two minutes later, shooting wide after being released by Michaelyne Butubu.

With an eye on knockout football, Ericson Komeng began to cycle his wider squad into the game, first withdrawing goalscorer Gunemba and then replacing goalkeeper Fidelma Watpore with Zaire Kuyae for her first appearance of the tournament – although she had very little to do.

Regardless of personnel, his side maintained their intensity and industry, with Kaipu running the channels and marshalling her forward line.

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She turned provider again in the 80th minute, chasing the ball down her favoured left wing and cutting back for substitute Hortance Kimit to bury past a stranded Kimberley Uini, who replaced had Seumanutafa in nets at half-time.

Kaipu had a final late chance to find her third but Uini denied the talismanic forward with a strong save as the minutes ticked down.

Secure in the result, Hekari were content to see the game out, maintaining possession and preventing Avatiu from mounting an attack for a consolation goal.

With today’s dominant performance, and having only conceded via a penalty so far in the tournament, last year’s runners up became the first team to confirm their place in the semi-finals, sending a warning to their opponents in the process.

Hekari United FC: 5 (Marie KAIPU 7’, 51’, Anashtasia GUNEMBA 43’, Christie MANEU 45’, Hortance KIMIT 80’)
Avatiu FC: 0

HT: 3-0
 

Hekari United’s win in the day’s early fixture meant that there was little room for error for Tafea FC and Henderson Eels. A draw would be enough to guarantee Tafea made the semi-finals, while this was a must-win match for the Eels.

The Vanuatuans were the first out the gate and took the lead after just six minutes, as Leimata Simon galloped into the Henderson Eels’ penalty area and cut back to Diana Sine, who stayed onside to tap in from three yards.

Sine then drew a foul, from which Jane Alatoa doubled her side’s lead. Curling a beautiful free-kick through the arms of Betty Sade in the Eels’ goal to put Tafea in control.

Alatoa was a composed, slick presence throughout the match, with most of Tafea’s attacking opportunities traced back to her close control and canny decision making.

Such was her impact, Eels head coach Godfrey Manehioha turned to his bench early to try and contain her, bringing Florence Aretoro on for Mirriam Suimae in the 29th minute in an attempt to stifle Alatoa’s influence.

Shortly after the change Henderson almost conceded a third but for Betty Sade, who snuffed out Simon’s attempt by bravely coming off her line. Henriette Sangul used her speed to fashion a final opportunity for Tafea deep into added time of the first half but Simon headed her cross over the bar.

Henderson finished the half stronger than they started, but were still unable to unlock Tafea’s defence as they chased a goal to get back into the match.

Heavy rainfall arrived as the second period began and it seemed to suit the Eels, disrupting Tafea’s preference for keeping the ball on the deck. However, just as the home side thought they might be finding a way back into the game, Tafea struck a decisive third, with Elma Aiviji taking advantage of a half-cleared corner to drill the ball home and all but secure a semi-final place for her team.

Knowing they needed a large goal difference to make ground on Hekari’s five unanswered strikes earlier in the day and finish above their Papua New Guinea rivals, Tafea pushed on for further goals, with Sangul missing a golden opportunity to score a fourth after beating the offside trap but firing wide on the hour mark.

In the end, Tafea had to settle for a 3-0 and second place in Group A. They will discover their semi-final opponents tomorrow when Group B comes to a close.

Henderson Eels FC: 0
Tafea FC: 3 (Diana SINE 6’, Jane ALATOA 13’, Elma AIVIJI 54’)

HT: 0-2

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