Papua New Guinea are into the final of the OFC Women’s Nations Cup 2022 after beating Samoa 3-0 at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva, Fiji.
Meagen Gunemba’s two second-half goals, either side of Samoa having a penalty saved, secured the win after Charlie Yanding had given PNG a first-half lead.
While Samoa were intent on playing out from the back, Papua New Guinea were happy to press them in midfield, continuously winning the ball as a consequence.
Early chances followed for PNG, Gunemba heading over and Samoa goalkeeper Ronisa Lipi making a sharp save from Sonia Embahe.
Paul Ifill’s side did look dangerous once they entered PNG’s defensive third. Torijan Lyne-Lewis twice had attempts from range while Jayda Stewart showed her ability to get beyond the defence, but could only hook her left-foot shot wide.
PNG remained the more threatening, Embahe missing from close range, Gunemba’s goalbound corner-kick forcing an acrobatic save from Lipi before Rayleen Bauelua whipped a long-range volley just wide of the post.
Eventually, PNG’s first-half pressure did pay off. Bauelua, as she did throughout the game, won possession in midfield before unleashing Ramona Padio, whose pass split the Samoa defence to allow Yanding a finish from close-range.
PNG head coach Nicola Demaine was in the opposite dugout when these two nations met at the 2018 edition of the Women’s Nations Cup. On that occasion, she was on the losing side, as PNG won 5-0. Early in the second period PNG looked to secure their boss a win four years on.
Gunemba, who scored a hat-trick in that 2018 meeting, repeated her trick from the quarter-final, as her corner-kick evaded two Samoa defenders and the goalie before nestling in the back of the net for 2-0.
Lipi was then called into action on two occasions, preventing Padio and then Gunemba, before Samoa were given a golden opportunity to claw their way back into the game.
PNG defender Lucy Maino fouled the pacey Sariah Taeaoalii in the box but PNG stopper Faith Kasiray saved Samoa skipper Monique Fischer’s spot-kick to maintain a two-goal advantage.
Any hope Samoa had of pulling off a comeback was then extinguished as Gunemba fired home a powerful strike from 25 yards to book PNG’s place in Saturday’s final against either host nation Fiji or the Solomon Islands.
Samoa will face the losers of that semi-final in the third/fourth playoff, and will take the positives from an impressive tournament performance which belies their current FIFA World Ranking of 109.
Samoa head coach Paul Ifill said: “We need to regroup, we have the Pacific Games coming up next year and I think we have an opportunity to really go far in that tournament as well.
“Hopefully we have put Samoa on the map a little bit more than they were before and I think they have to got to be proud of themselves.”
Papua New Guinea head coach Nicola Demaine said :“We came here to make history so going one step better than the last competition we are definitely on that path to do that.
“We will see if we can finish the job off.”
Papua New Guinea 3 (Charlie YANDING 44’, Meagen GUNEMBA 48’, 79’)