Flying Kiwis – April 7

Winston Reid was tasked with marking Suarez & Sturridge this week...

Winston Reid was tasked with marking Suarez & Sturridge this week...

Flying Kiwis will keep you up to date on the endeavours of New Zealand sports folk overseas. Not the battlers, mind you, but the genuine overlooked and underappreciated superstars that for some ridiculous reason don’t get a look in on local media.

Chris Wood – Leicester City (English Championship)

Nudge nudge, wink wink. Leicester City are moving on up after results this weekend confirmed their automatic promotion. There’s still a little bit of work to do before the Championship title is in the bag too, but they can finish no lower than second. It was Derby and QPR both dropping points on the weekend that sealed their promotion, but Leicester City had themselves a pretty successful week in their own regards. Once again being asked to fight back late on, and against a tough Wigan side too, LCFC managed a late equaliser thanks to midfielder Dean Hammond to secure a 2-2 away draw. With Jamie Vardy still out injured for the near future, Chris Wood was given the start. He wasn’t able to reproduce what he did against Burnley, fighting hard for little reward, and being subbed off after 74 minutes. He was better against Sheffield Wednesday on the weekend, playing 59 minutes of their 2-1 victory. Wood set up the opening goal with a lovely through ball to winger Riyad Mahrez. A keeping error led to an equaliser, and Wood was subbed off just before Leicester scored the winner through a glorious free kick from Anthony Knockaert. Promotion guaranteed with 6 games to play (and a 9 point lead on first place thanks to Burnely dropping points). Looks like we’ll be seeing another kiwi in the Premier League next season!

Up Next: Home to playoff contenders Brighton, 6.45am on Wednesday (NZT)

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

 West Ham had the unenviable task of hosting a rampaging Liverpool team this morning. Reid started and played 90, meaning he and James Tomkins got to spend the game marking Suarez and Sturridge, and to be fair to them, they did better than most have this year.  They weren’t able to stop the juggernaut, falling 2-1 and let’s just say it was controversial. After holding out the Reds for most of the first half, Gerrard fed Suarez, who cutting the ball back inside Tomkins, flicked it up into the defender’s arm. Penalty. Nothing much Tomkins could do about it – it was a lot like the one Suarez won off Rafael against Man Utd a little while back. Gerrard steps up and buries it. The Hammers hit right back before the break though, when Mignolet spilled the ball under pressure from Andy Carroll, and Guy Demel put it away. Really, it should have been a LFC free kick – Carroll pretty much hit Mignolet in the face. Suarez hit the woodwork a couple times in the game, and Carroll headed one onto the crossbar himself, but the points were confirmed when West Ham keeper Adrian was judged to have fouled Jon Flanagan, though he appeared to get the ball first. Gerrard scores it, Liverpool march on into first, West Ham remain upper lower half and probably safe from trouble. Reid was a little sloppy in possession, with West Ham in general struggling to keep the ball (only having 36% for the game). He cleared the ball well, and avoided too much trouble against the in-form striking duo in England.

Up Next: Arsenal at The Emirates, Wednesday 16th, 8.45am (NZT)

Tommy Smith – Ipswich Town (English Championship)

A 2-0 away loss to Blackburn probably ruined Ipswich’s playoff hopes. They’re now 5 points off 6th, with 6 games remaining, one of four teams sitting on 58 points. Smith played a full game, though not his best. It’s the failure to create chances going forward that has cost this team however. Aside from counter attacks, they were pretty limp against Rovers, who were able to keep the ball in and around Ipswich’s penalty area, and could have won by more had they been more efficient. Smith and co. played the offside trap well, catching out Jordan Rhodes four times, though Rhodes’ goal earned him the last laugh. Ipswich can still contend with a strong finish to the season. It’ll take some improving to do that though. Smith has played 39 of Ipswich’s 40 league games, scoring 5 goals and playing a part in 12 clean sheets.

Up Next: The Trotters travel to Huddersfield for a 6.45am game on Wednesday (NZT)

Ryan Thomas – PEC Zwolle (Dutch Eredivisie)

The 19 year old All White was back in the lineup for the game against Groningen, playing 83 mins before being subbed off. Thomas wasn’t able to spark something for Zwolle though, and they fell 1-0 at home. He did manage a shot, and came up with 3 tackles – the third most for his team. Thomas had more touches than his other forward playing teammates, and was good in possession, drawing 3 fouls and only giving up the ball the one time. Jut lacking a little creativity and the final touch. It’s three games without a win now, meaning they’ve dropped out of immediate touching distance of eighth spot. Groningen are actually the team directly in front of them in the final European spot – they’ve won 3 in a row. It doesn't really matter for Zwolle though. Eighth place is the cut off for Europa League Qualifying spots, but they've already booked a spot in Europe next season thanks to their Dutch Cup run (they play Ajax in the final in a couple weeks).

Up Next: Waalwijk away, 12.30 am Monday morning (NZT)

Marco Rojas – VfB Stuttgart (Bundesliga)

Like a rare Amazonian bird, the flashy plumes of Marco Rojas have been nowhere to be seen recently. Many experts have speculated that the once ubiquitous Rojas had gone the way of the Dodo or Moa before him. But the scholarly world is in shock this week after a confirmed sighting of the former Wellington Phoenix star, playing 45 minutes for the Stuttgart reserves on Saturday in the German third division. We’ve covered it before, but in case you missed it, the German leagues don’t have a reserve division like in England, and teams big enough to have reserves instead enter those reserve teams in lower divisions. So Rojas, who hadn’t played until this game all season (apart from a brief All Whites appearance before another injury setback) has effectively been loaned out, just as you would with a parent/feeder club relationship on Football Manager 2014. It’s been a difficult season for Rojas, so it’s great to see him back in action. It’s not the Bundesliga yet, but as the man himself said, it’s a start. Stuttgart II drew 0-0 with Duisburg away.

Up Next: Stuttgart II play away at Osnabruck, at midnight on Sunday (NZT)

Ryan Nelsen – Toronto FC (US Major League Soccer)

Back to winning ways for manager Ryan Nelson this week. After getting pumped by Real Salt Lake, Toronto were on the road again, though they’ll return much happier after coming away with a 2-0 win over Columbus Crew. Michael Bradley was signed with big expectations, and to date has looked Toronto’s best player by far. There was no Jermaine Defoe in this game, so there was some added pressure on the team’s other stars, and Bradley delivered with a 11th minute opening goal. Defoe’s injury is said to be a minor one, so no word on if he’ll miss more time. Toronto were also without captain and Scottish international (and brother of Gary) Stephen Caldwell, who was handed a one game suspension following a committee review of a tackle he made last week. On loan English defender (and Nelsen’s former teammate at Blackburn) Bradley Orr produced a man of the match performance in Caldwell’s absence, keeping the aggressive Columbus Crew team at bay, and holding on to a valuable clean sheet. The result was confirmed with 5 minutes to play when Issey Nakajima-Farran (who played a spell for the Brisbane Roar in 2011) grabbed a goal off the bench. 3 wins from their first 4 and Nelsen’s boys are up to second in the MLS Eastern Conference.

And after a couple of poor games, Tony Lochhead found himself dropped for CD Chivas USA’s latest, though they didn’t do any good without him either, going down 3-0 at home to LA Galaxy, Robbie Keane grabbing the first goal.

Up Next: Toronto are back in Maple Country to host Colorado, 8am Sunday (NZT)