Papua New Guinea (PNG) successfully won the Pacific Games women’s football title for the sixth time against a resilient Fiji side at the National Stadium in Honiara on Friday night.
The defending champions took control from the start, securing an early lead with a goal from Phylis Pala in the first half.
Despite Fiji creating several scoring opportunities, they struggled to find the back of the net.
Both teams entered the second half with renewed determination, with PNG aiming for a second goal and Fiji in search of an equaliser.
Fiji managed to find the back of the net with what seemed like an equaliser, but the goal was disallowed for offside.
PNG then seized the opportunity to extend their lead, with Marie Kaipu scoring two goals. Her first came from capitalising on a defensive error, while her second was a result of a skilful volley.
Fiji fought back, and Trina Davis managed to score a goal, providing a glimmer of hope.
However, Marie Kaipu stole the spotlight by completing a remarkable hat-trick. Her fourth goal came from capitalising on a rebound from Fiji’s goalkeeper, sealing PNG’s historic victory with a convincing 4-1 score line.
Coach Eric Komeng attributed their victory to the cohesive teamwork and efficient utilisation of scoring opportunities by the PNG team. He said he had encouraged his players to create their own legacy during the tournament and commended the team’s trust in themselves, especially evident in the second half with notable performances.
“We came here with a very young team,” he admitted.
“We just let the girls know that there are some girls that won the fifth one, the fourth, the third, the first, and the second. You have to make your own history.
“That’s what the girls did today during the tournament.
“They just have to trust themselves, and I think that’s what they did.”
Stressing the importance of discipline, Komeng highlighted the team’s success in converting chances into goals.
“I told the girls if we have any chances, we just have to put our chances away, and that’s what they did in the second half. We had our chances; we put them away. I think the girls deserve this gold medal,” Komeng said.
Meanwhile, in Friday’s women’s bronze medal match, New Caledonia emerged victorious, defeating Samoa 3-1.
The match saw a goalless first quarter before Samoa took the lead. However, New Caledonia swiftly responded with an equaliser and added two more goals to secure an ultimately comfortable victory.
In the rankings matches, Vanuatu secured a fifth-place finish after beating hosts Solomon Islands in Friday’s playoffs at the SIFF Academy.
Both teams came out firing in what was an equally contested first half, with the ball mostly played in the center of the field.
Vanuatu’s Rita Solomon was found unmarked in the 18-yard box to open the scoring in the 16th minute giving her side the lead early on.
Individual brilliance from Solomon Islands captain Ileen Pegi levelled the scoring in the 35th minute with both teams going into the break all level.
Diana Sine scored the winner for Vanuatu in the 72nd minute, placing the ball out of Corina Rotoava’s reach cementing Vanuatu’s fifth place finish in the women’s competition.
“I am very happy for the team and the win today and it is a big achievement for the girls from the last Pacific Games in Samoa where we finished second to last,” said Vanuatu coach, Yalou Robert.
“We didn’t have quite a great preparation without any friendly matches and to finish fifth is a huge positive for us.”
Coach Robert also acknowledge football fans in Vanuatu for the support his team received back home and pleaded for more support for the country’s women’s football team.
Friday’s other match saw Tonga settling for seventh in the overall standings after beating Tahiti 2-0 with goals from Lositika Feke and Kiana Swift.
By Carlos Aruafu and Timothy Inifiri Jnr, Pacific Games News Service