The Vaka twin sisters were the difference for Tonga in both a good and bad way as Tonga took the win against the Cook Islands.
(Tonga – Cook Islands 1-0)
The match was one were both teams could get their first points and even their first goals on the table, so it meant a lot to both sides.
And Tonga were the ones who took charge from the beginning and was rewarded with an early goal.
Just three minutes on the clock and Daviana Vaka stood over the ball on a free kick. Her attempt hit the wall but it bounced over it and her twin sister Laveni Vaka was the one fastest to react. The way the ball dropped put the Cook Islands defence on the back foot and Vaka had no problem slotting the ball past Thea Keith, who made her tournament debut.
The Cooks then took over the play but didn’t threaten the Tonga goal, where another tournament debutant in Mele Niukapu guarded the sticks.
Their biggest chances would fall from set pieces and they didn’t really trouble Niukapu that much.
Instead, it was Tonga who had the biggest chances as the Vaka sisters ran the Tonga attacks on their own. First Daviana sent a free kick under the wall that was straight at Keith, before Laveni made the Cooks keeper work a little more when her shot was tipped round the post.
Cook Islands coach Tuka Tisam was clearly not happy with what he had seen and made a double change at the half-hour mark, bringing on Lee Maoate-Cox and Tupou Patia.
That didn’t change the way things were going much and in added time of the first half, it was once again Tonga who had the big chance.
A fantastic long ball from Laveni Vaka found Malia Tongia who rushed through, but one-on-one with Keith she couldn’t get a good enough finish off and the Cooks keeper was down quick enough to save the attempt.
Over in the second half, it was Tonga who got the first big chance after just a minute and a half of play. Daviana Vaka made her way into the Cook Islands box but instead of shooting tried to find a teammate. After a small scramble, the ball fell to Finehika Finau who smashed her shot goalward, but luckily for the Cook Islands it was straight at Keith.
Then in the 69th minute, Tonga’s task became much more difficult as Daviana Vaka got her second yellow in three minutes and was sent off. Both yellows were for late tackles and the referee had no choice but to send the striker off.
Despite going down to ten men Tonga had little problems in holding off the Cook Islands attack. The Cooks lacked the tempo, both in the running and the passing to really create difficulties for a disciplined Tonga defence.
The big chance for the Cook Islands to draw level fell to Moeroa Harmon in the 86th minute. The rapid striker broke through on goal and sent the ball high up in the goal, but somehow Niukapu got her hand to it and pushed it over the crossbar.
Tonga saw off the rest of the match and goes home with a positive result in the bag, while the Cooks had a disappointing game and tournament overall.