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New Zealand Book Their Place At The 2024 Summer Olympics In Paris With Victory Over Solomon Islands

Published: Mon 19 Feb 2024 07:01 PM
New Zealand will represent Oceania at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris following a dominant display in their victory over the Solomon Islands in Apia.
Impressive performances from Grace Jale and Indiah-Paige Riley, as well as a brace from striker Hannah Wilkinson, proved too much to handle for the Solomon Islands, as the Kiwis ensured that once again they will have the opportunity to compete for an Olympic medal later this year.
Jitka Klimková’s team – who had been impressive all throughout their campaign – started as expected, controlling possession and territory as Batram Suri’s side struggled to play their way into the match.
Margaret Kofela in the Solomon Islands’ goal started brightly, denying Grace Jale from close range with a superb reflex save, diverting the ball over the bar. Four minutes later however, the ‘keeper was unable to deny New Zealand their opening strike – Hannah Wilkinson’s fine hold-up play allowing the centre-forward to lay the ball off to Jacqueline Hand, who showed neat footwork before side-footing past Kofela.
Wilkinson herself got on the scoresheet on the twenty minute mark – reacting first to a loose ball to turn and finish off the inside of the post. Katie Bowen added a third five minutes later, finishing calmly from Grace Jale’s cross from the right-hand side as New Zealand looked to put the game to bed early on.
The excellent duo of Jale and Riley struck one a piece in the final minutes of the half. Riley’s finish especially catching the eye as she guided her left-footed effort into the far top corner after her initial cross had been partially cleared.
Kofela in the Solomon Islands’ net began the second period with another excellent stop, this time denying Hand and Wilkinson in quick succession from close range.
It wasn’t long however until her goal was breached again. Indiah-Paige Riley ghosting into the area and finshing with aplomb from Jacquline Hand’s cross.
A difficult day for the Solomon Islands was given a brief moment of celebration. New Zealand goalkeeper Victoria Esson dwindled in possession on the edge of her own area – Jemina David taking advantage of a rushed clearance to hook the ball into the unguarded net to give her side a memorable moment.
Their opponents riposte however was swift and clinical. Wilkinson grabbed her second almost immediately from the kick-off, before Grace Jale also claimed a brace with an unmarked back post header from six yards out.
Substitute Katie Kitching was next to mark her name on the score sheet. Scoring twice in six minutes – her first a wonderful effort from the edge of the box that arrowed into the top corner, before adding another with quick feet and a smart finish for her second.
Kitching and Jale had excellent opportunities to claim their respective hat-tricks in the same move. Kofela saved well from Kitching’s curled effort from distance before Jale’s attempt on the rebound struck the outside of the post with the goal gaping.
Qualification secured for New Zealand, there was still time in the dying minutes to add another. The young Ruby Nathan – who only made her senior international debut late last year – found space on the edge of the area and crafted a classy effort into the top corner to giver her side’s performance the ideal finish.
Solomon Islands: 1 (Jemina DAVID 55’)
New Zealand: 11 (Jacqueline HAND 12’, Hannah WILKINSON 20’, 56’, Katie BOWEN 25’, Grace JALE 37’, 62’ Indiah-Paige RILEY 45+1’, 52’, Katie Kitching 70’, 76’, Ruby NATHAN 88’)
HT: 0-5

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