Reigning Champions AS Academy Féminine clinch a dramatic win at OFC Women’s Champions League

Photo: Oceania Football Confederation

Three goals in eight minutes has secured reigning champions AS Academy Féminine a 4-1 victory in their opening Group B match against Veitongo FC at Lawson Tama Stadium Tuesday. 

Playing in torrential conditions, the first shot on goal was registered by AS Academy forward Joceline Kourevi from the edge of the area in the eighth minute which Veitongo goalkeeper Mele’ana Taufa easily snaffled. Minutes later Taufa was forced into action again, as the defending champions began to settle into their attacking rhythm. 

However, it was debutants Veitongo FC who struck first, pouncing on a defensive miscommunication after AS Academy failed to deal with a long ball. A determined Leeann Taufa’ao chased the loose ball, before playing in Ana Polovili, who coolly slotted home the opening goal in the 20th minute. 

Prior to the tournament, AS Academy Féminine Head Coach Coralie Bretegnier spoke about bringing a side of talented youngsters in her squad, so she could expose them to a higher level of competition. 

The reigning champs fired back 10 minutes later through captain Alice Wenessia, who with a deft touch and turn lost her defenders before firing a rocket past Taufa from outside the penalty area. 

Their rhythm restored, a minute later AS Academy thought they were on the cusp of taking the lead, but Jennifer Neporo’s shot hit the upright but the 20-year-old was adjudged to be offside before she could latch onto the rebound. 

The holders upped the urgency in the second half as they searched for a winner, with first Wenessia firing wide after a mazy run, followed by Neporo and half time substitute Ronaldine Hnaune combining, but the 17-year-old fired it directly into the hands Taufa.  

Sensing the opportunity to frustrate their opponents, Veitongo were content to sit deep and absorb the pressure from their New Caledonia opponents. It was a strategy that paid off, as they restricted the captain Wenessia to shots from outside the box that harmlessly flew wide. 

The holders enjoyed majority of possession, and were camped out around the penalty area for much of the second-half but despite moving their way into attacking positions with ease they just couldn’t find the final decisive finish. 

Fatigue and injuries started to plague Veitongo who were forced to make two substitutions due to injury, first losing captain Seini Lutu in the 71st minute after an awkward clash and eight minutes later Latusiu Lomu was also forced off after catching her foot in the turf. 

Unbreakable for over half-an-hour in the second-half, the Tongan defence finally succumbed. AS Academy left it late but finally found the winner thanks to three of their teenagers, who combined brilliantly to give Joceline Kourevi her first goal of the tournament in the 86th minute. 

Captain Wenessia then put the match to bed, producing another unstoppable shot from just inside the penalty area in the 90th minute. Making sure of the result, Neporo confidently tucked away an inch perfect Hnaune cutback to confirm a dramatic victory. 

Veitongo FC: 1 (Ana POLOVILI 20’) 

AS Academy Féminine 4 (Alice WENESSIA 30′, 90′, Joceline KOUREVI 86′, Jennifer NEPORO 90+4′) HT: 1-1.