Flying Kiwis – December 11

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Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

Straight back into it at Chelsea after the Nations Cup with the Footy Ferns. Riley has mostly played off the bench this season, an injury affecting the start of the campaign and all, so no shocker to see her named on the bench especially after returning from New Caledonia. Also it ain’t like Chelsea did too badly without her, winning both games she missed to nil. 5-0 over Yeovil and 1-0 over Reading.

They then went and beat Yeovil all over again in her return. Riley was a 60th minute introduction in a 7-0 win, which booked Chelsea’s progression to the next stage of the WSL/Conti Cup. It was already 4-0 at half-time and they added three more after Riley was subbed on. She came close to scoring her first goal for Chelsea too but it wasn’t quite to be. Still, just playing at all so soon after flying literally halfway around the world was one heck of an effort. 40 hours mate, that’s gutsy. And she’s not the only one on this list who did that either.

Then on the weekend against Brighton in the league things were a little different. Much closer at the break this time, all tied at 0-0 with Ali Riley again on the bench. But once Magdalena Ericsson finally gave Chelsea the lead in the 65th minute they absolutely ran away with it. Ali Riley was an immediate introduction after the first goal and then Beth England immediately gave them a second. Riley herself was close to scoring a third as her shot was saved by Irish keeper Marie Hourihan but then she went and set up the next one anyway, Riley’s cross from the left dummied over by England to allow Ji So-Yun the open finish. England then added a second for a 4-0 win. Four goals in the last 25 minutes to make it a whole lot more comprehensive than it could’ve been.

That makes it seven wins in a row in all competitions and nine unbeaten for Chelsea, who haven’t conceded a goal in any of them since losing 5-0 to Arsenal on October 15. Nearly two months of clean sheets. There’s a good chance they keep another one next time as they travel across town to play second-tier Tottenham in the League Cup group stages – the last game of that comp before the knockouts and with top spot qualification already sorted for the Blues there’s also a good chance Ali Riley gets a go as well. That’ll be their final game of the year before a three week break.

Up Next: Thursday morning at 8.30am away to Tottenham (NZT)

Abby Erceg – North Carolina Courage (American National Women’s Soccer League)

The Guardian and The Offside Rule combined to do this thing last week ranking the top 100 women footballers on the planet. They got a bunch of independent adjudicators (players, coaches and media members – including Sarah Gregorius and Kirsty Yallop) to submit their top 40s and then aggregated the results into a century of the most outstanding players. Well, not quite the most outstanding. Obviously there’s no way to make a perfect representation across such a variety of nations and leagues so certain players will always be left out… and the lack of Ali Riley’s name was an egregious one.

There was one kiwi player to make the list though. The one who it would’ve been a travesty if she wasn’t there. Captained the best team in the USA to the greatest season in that competition’s history, celebrated as the finest defender in one of the strongest leagues around the globe.

Abby Erceg snuck in at #60 on the list, probably a tad low but there’s a bit of a bias in these things towards players from bigger countries (there always is, since they get to play in the biggest games at World Cups/Champions Leagues when the focus is sharpest) and also towards European based players, neither of which include the best defender in the NWSL. One thinks an American based paper’s version of this list would have her in the top 30. And if The Niche Cache were involved then we’d be talking… top ten? Top five? Nah, who are we kidding… probably number one.

Whatever, these things are always pretty frivolous. But enjoy the recognition, we’ve got a kiwi player competing amongst the best in the world.

Up Next: Still hanging out in the ol’ offseason

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

A good week for Burnley is a good week for Chris Wood. He might not be scoring many goals at the moment but neither is his team so as long as they’re churning out the points then things are doing okay. Especially while he’s starting, given Sean Dyche’s inconsistent rotation amongst his strikers this season.

Burnley played in the midweek against Liverpool and for more than half the game they were really good. They took the game to Liverpool physically while defending well with James Tarkowski making his return, Joe Hart having a fine start to the game too, and the attacking pair of Chris Wood and Ashley Barnes (not sure what Sam Vokes has done to be dropped but at least it wasn’t The Woodsman) were looking frisky. The two linked up to give Woody an early chance but he couldn’t get his shot off in time to threaten the goal.

Jurgen Klopp was more than aware of the heavy fixture congestion at this time of the year so he’d rested Mohamed Salah and Roberto Firmino which had taken the sting out of the Reds. Not the case for the Clarets. Wood had another chance which took a deflection on its way before Barnes had the ball in the net with an outstanding side-footed volley but the flag fairly went up. However Burnley did eventually take the lead through Jack Cork. Wood was there from the corner as Tarkowski headed the ball back across goal. Wood got a toe on it but not much of a touch. Allison couldn’t hold it. Cork slotted it past him for 1-0.

Unfortunately that woke up the sleeping beast. James Milner tied it with a fine strike into the bottom corner before Firmino scored with his first touch since coming off the bench (in a double change with Salah). Then Xherdan Shaqiri made it 3-1 and that’s the way it ended. Promising from Burnley but ultimately it was another defeat. Wood was replaced in the 71st minute after Liverpool had already gone up 2-1.

Sky Sports Ref Watch: “INCIDENT: Chris Wood appears to be offside when Jack Cork scores Burnley's opener and the ball is also kicked out of the hands of Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson.

VERDICT: Wrong decisions.

DERMOT SAYS: I think Wood is just offside when James Tarkowski heads the ball down. Once Alisson has his hands on the ball on the ground he is deemed in possession and the forward can't go for it.”

Good thing then that they got a win on the weekend against Brighton. It was Wood and Barnes up front again and this time The Woodsman got a full ninety minutes. James Tarkowski scored the only goal in the 40th minute with a deflected shot and somehow they held on against a whole heap of late pressure to win it 1-0. Snaps an eight game run without a win and it makes for just their second away win in 22 Premier League games on the road.

Chris Wood had a pretty involved game. Early on he had a one on one denied (correctly) for offside, before getting a strong save out of Aussie keeper Matt Ryan on the angle. He tested the fella a couple times this game as well as having another shot deflected wide. Nice to see Burney creating chances again… and when Jack Cork’s shot found its way into the net via James Tarkoswki’s chest they had a deserved lead.

It was then a matter of finding an elusive second, which they weren’t able to do, or keeping a rare clean sheet, which they were able to do. Brighton threw the kitchen sink but James Tarkowski in particular was good enough to keep it out. Great to have the England international back, obviously.  For a team that was built on a legendary defence last season, this was only their fourth clean sheet in the Premier League this season over sixteen games. One streak they didn’t break is that they’re now 58 games without being awarded a PL penalty… which sucks when Wood is the designated taker. Oh look, they’re out of the relegation zone too!

Lancashire Telegraph Player Ratings: “Chris WOOD 6 - Had the right ideas but the execution was lacking at times. Put the ball in the net in first half but was offside”

Up Next: Away to Tottenham on Sunday at 4am (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

In the end it wasn’t the spectacle we were after at all. Bill Tuiloma’s playoff heroics weren’t given the chance to continue as he was named on the bench with Larrys Mabiala understandably returning to the starting team after overcoming his ankle injury. Tuiloma then watched the whole thing from the sidelines as the massive favourites Atlanta United did what was anticipated of them and lifted the championship trophy with a 2-0 victory.

The game began tight and conservative, there wasn’t even a shot until more than twenty minutes into it. Fine by the Timbers, who have made tight and conservative first halves their whole thing this postseason run and then striking in the second half with the individual genius of some of their attackers. But Atlanta busted the dam. They scored through MVP Victor Martinez after a cheap giveaway had snuck past the defence before the break. Jeremy Ebobisse nearly made rapid amends only to see his header come back off the crossbar. Then less than ten minutes after the start of the second half Franco Escobar made it 2-0 and ATL were comfortable from there. No need to sub on Tuiloma when you’re chasing goals. Disappointing… but it doesn’t take away from a great second half to the season and especially a brilliant playoff run.

Bill Tuiloma completes a season in which he played 17 times in the MLS, nine starts and eight subs apps, for 995 minutes in total. He scored one goal in his first season in the top flight of America. It’s been a difficult few years for him since making his Ligue 1 debut in February 2015, spending most of the next three years bouncing around on loan or with reserve teams, including the Portland Timbers reserves in 2017. So getting relatively regular footy this season for the second best team in America was a bit of a breakthrough. He’s put himself in excellent position to have an even bigger role in 2019 too, better wait and see how that all plays out and which Timbers players don’t return.

Same goes for Jake Gleeson who could settle in as the backup keeper next year or he may choose to move on. Notably Stefan Marinovic was the only import keeper to be starting more or less every week in the MLS by the end of the regular season and he’s been cut by the Whitecaps so it’s not an easy thing to make work.

Up Next: Offseason, mate

Katie Rood – Bristol City (English Super League)

Between fixture lists, international breaks, an injury, settling in to a new club and then jetting off for the Nations Cup, Katie Rood probably hasn’t played as much as she’d have liked for Bristol City yet. Only two league appearances off the bench (plus a couple starts in the Conti Cup) and it’d been a month since she last took the field for City.

But back from the Nations Cup now and full of confidence after scoring four goals at that tournament, Roodie’s pretty much on fire. Chucked out there with twenty minutes left away to Everton, Bristol City’s last league game of the calendar year, the team had just gone 1-0 up through a screamer of a goal from Ella Rutherford. Everton threw players forward for the equaliser but were denied by keeper Sophie Baggaley and then in the first minute of injury time a competitive game was finally put to bed. “Katie Rood wrapped up all three points in the ninetieth minute as she beat two Everton defenders on the edge of the box, before gliding past Gabrielle George and finding the far corner of the net with a curling left-footed effort.”

Great goal. Her first for Bristol City and, since all her Juventus goals came in cup competition, her first in a league game since she left Aotearoa. Brilliant. The result also gives Bristol City some room on the table, four points clear of Liverpool in seventh place and with a game in hand that could take them ahead of Ria Percival’s West Ham. But that’s for 2019 to worry about, next up is the last game of the Conti Cup group stage, in which they need to beat Birmingham handily in order to advance to the quarters. It’s an away game too. Might be tough.

Up Next: Thursday at 8.30am away to Birmingham (NZT)

Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)

Ria Percival took a couple games to work her way in at West Ham and then pretty much became a key player just like that. They did okay in the three games that she missed, losing 3-0 to Birmingham but then recovering to beat Bristol City and Brighton (a shame we missed out on a Flying Kiwis derby with the Bristol City game scheduled when it was)… but up against bottom placed Yeovil Town in Ria Percival’s return they ripped off what the gaffer called their best performance of the season.

WHU came out hungry and took control of this game from the opening whistle. Julia Simic was the star, scoring twice and setting up another couple, but she was far from the only player on form as the Hammers were 3-0 up after 34 minutes and it could’ve been five or six. It ended up being five with a couple more goals in the second half. A 5-0 victory. Swiss international Alisha Lehmann also got a brace and Brianna Visalli scored the other one. Hey and how about this one… “On 27 minutes, the Swiss international had her second. The ball was put on a plate by the returning Ria Percival. The New Zealander’s cross was met at the far post by Lehmann, who calmly volleyed home with the outside of her right boot. The Irons made it 3-0 on 34 minutes, with Percival again registering an assist. The No2 again swung in a sensational cross, and this time Simic met the ball, turning home a low effort.”

Mate, check out the quality on the cross for the second goal here. Magnifique.

A couple assists and a clean sheet on return, yeah that’ll do. Percy played ninety minutes at right back which is where she’s played most of the time for the Hammers. She would have had a third assist but the goal was ruled out for a foul when the score was still 0-0. Full highlights are available here.

Next up is Charlton in the WSL Cup and West Ham will advance as long as they avoid defeat within ninety minutes.

Up Next: Charlton vs West Ham, WSL Cup, Thursday at 8.45am (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – Vitória de Guimarães (Portuguese Primeira Liga)

No luck for Tyler as he wasn’t included in the match day squad for VSC’s 3-2 dramatic come from behind 3-2 win over Rio Ave (where Ollie Whyte’s on the youth books). Pedrao scored the winner in the 87th minute but Boyd’s not quite back from that injury he suffered a few weeks back. Should be back any time though.

What we do have instead is the annual gala ceremony for Vitória SC, which included Tyler Boyd being awarded the club’s Revelation of the Year… in other words the breakthrough player of the last twelve months. Good signs for him getting that new contract he’s after, by the way. His original deal with the club expires at the end of the season so wanna get pen on paper soon enough.

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Muito obrigado a todos

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Here’s the full thing:

Up Next: Aves vs Vitoria, Sunday at 7am (NZT)

Meikayla Moore & Emma Rolston – MSV Duisburg (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

The two games that Moore and Rolston missed saw Duisburg concede 11 goals. A 3-3 draw away to Hoffenheim was an okay result, apart from conceding in the 93rd minute and all, but the 8-1 defeat to Turbine Potsdam was a bit embarrassing. And it was similar after the two kiwis came back. Moore was immediately back in there at CB as Duisburg kept their first clean sheet in two months but were unable to grab a winner, drawing 0-0 with Frankfurt. Moore picked up a yellow card in the second half. Frankfurt definitely had the better chances to score so a point there ain’t too shabby.

Except next up they played SGS Essen and, erm… they lost 6-0. Full game for Moore but after conceding the second goal in injury time of the first half they just crumbled. Duisburg have wrapped up a fair few points already, 11 of them in 12 games, which in a league where there’s a lot of distance between the top and bottom teams means they’re four points clear of relegation with some breathing room. But it’s concerning that what was initially a great defence has gotten all rubbish lately. They’ve lost by a combined 10-0 to SGS Essen this year and have conceded 33 goals all up. Must be a bogey team.

Bit of a head wound in there for Moore too, kia kaha.

Up Next: Monday at 2am at home to Bayern Munich (NZT)

Rebekah Stott – Melbourne City (Australian W-League)

Welcome back indeed. Stott had a lovely return as Melbourne City took the win 3-1 over Newcastle Jets. Just what they needed against a fellow rival for the playoffs. Melbourne Victory are still unbeaten at the top while defending champs City didn’t win any of their three games without Stotty. 2-0 defeat in the Melbourne derby, lost 5-2 to Sam Kerr and Perth Glory (Kerr scored two of them and set up two more) then drew 1-1 with Adelaide. Gonna go right on ahead and say that’s not a coincidence. Nor is it a coincidence that they got back to winning ways with Stott in the defence. Highlights are viewable right… here.

Up Next: It’s the bye next week before a 7pm clash on Saturday 22 December away to Canberra United (NZT)

Marco Rojas – sc Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)

It’s a good day when Marco Rojas gets a pop off the bench for Heerenveen. Something he didn’t do for a couple full months but he’s been a feature in two of the last three games… funnily enough against PSV and Willem II – the two other clubs in the Eredivisie with kiwis in the first team squad. But Ryan Thomas is injured and James McGarry and Michael Woud were unused subs in the latest one.

Still, Marco got 22 minutes off the bench as SCH capitalised on Frenk Heerkens’ first half red card to win 5-1. They took the lead from the resulting penalty of Heerkens’ foul and then ran away with it in the second half. Rojas replaced Nemanja Mihajlović, one of the goal scorers, just after the fifth had been scored. He was the first bloke off the bench though, and nearly had an assist with a sharp dribble and pass with twelve minutes left.

Two wins in a row mean Heery are just two points out of the Europa League playoffs while Willem II are four points back in midtable, just two ahead of the relegation playoffs. This was Rojas’ third appearance of the league season, to go with a start in a cup game.

Up Next: Heerenveen vs Utrecht, 12.15am on Monday (NZT)

Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)

Well what do you know? Jeremy Brockie scored again. Took him until the fourth minute of the Champions League second leg qualifier against Leones Vegetarianos to slip in the opening goal, having already come close in the first minute of play. Sundowns went on to win the game 5-1 and advance 7-1 on aggregate, a result that was never in doubt but having broken his year-long duck a month ago Jeremy Brockie really is on fire now. This was his third goal in five games, crucially having started all five of those games after having basically descended into being a bench option late in games previously. The Sniper is back!

Up Next: Wednesday morning at 6.30, it’s Sundowns vs Baroka (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

Back with the unit… but on the bench for the first game on return. Easing back into it. Bordeaux went on to draw 2-2 against Montpellier with Romane Bruneau getting her fourth start of the season. Been a mixed bag without Nayler in there. A 2-0 win over Lille was a great result, a 4-1 win over Rodez was a happily expected result but the 1-0 loss to Soyaux in the middle didn’t taste too good. As for this game, Montpellier have emerged as the third best team in the division so a draw at home against them is perfectly decent… but it’s also a missed opportunity to go level with them on points.

Up Next: Sunday at 2.30am away to Guingamp (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

AJ Leitch-Smith scored in the 27th minute and Jason Oswell scored in the 40th minute. Morecambe were 2-0 up at half-time and they continued to lead 2-0 through most of the second half. Possession was pretty even between the two lower-mid table teams but Steven Old and his cohorts had kept Port Vale from having a single shot on target to this point.

But then in the 83rd minute they buggered up their offside trap and Antony Kay got on the end of a curling free kick to score and give the visitors a lifeline. Four minutes later Stevie Old got beaten to a cross at the near post (not sure where the rest of the defence were) by Tom Pope and his header made it 2-2 with just minutes remaining.

A massive choke there for valuable points… except we weren’t done. The kickoff was flipped back and a long ball went up. A header was won and now Rhys Oates was through on goal, out came the keeper, down went Oates, out went the arm of the referee. Penalty, incredible drama. Leitch-Smith stepped up to take it… and Scott Brown, a veteran keeper who other than two years with Aberdeen in Scotland has spent the whole of his career in League One or Two (and a three game loan spell in the National League), got down low to save it.

A mind-blowing 2-2 draw in the end. Morecambe should have won but at least it’s another game without defeat. They barely avoided relegation last season but this time they’ve got a few points to spare, sitting 19th on the ladder and six points clear.

Up Next: Lincoln City vs Morecambe, Sunday at 4am (NZT)

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

Getting information about Winston has been tough this season. It’s not just that he’s been out injured since early in 2018 but with the Hammers beginning to play some rather decent footy – with back to back wins against Cardiff (3-1) and Crystal Palace (3-2) this week giving them their first three-game win streak in the Premier League since December 2016, and the only loss they’ve suffered in the last seven was to Manchester City – Winston Reid isn’t even really being missed. Fabian Balbuena has settled in nicely while Issa Diop has been so good that the 21 year old Frenchman is already being linked to bigger clubs and he’s only been at West Ham for six months.

Getting information out of any Premier League club is hard enough, to be honest. So luckily the West Ham community happens to feature this one geezer who calls himself ‘ExWHUemployee’ (wonder how he came up with that handle?) and he’s clearly got some phone numbers still. The dude’s a common presence on twitter and he even pops up on the odd radio/podcast too, such as his cameo on The West Ham Way this week, where he provided a valuable insight into Winnie’s situation.

ExWHUemployee: “Winston Reid is unknown, he’s been back at the club recently working there, but there’s been no deadline given to his return. I was thinking he must be coming up to a year since he last played for us, it was about February time I think against Swansea away, about January/February time when he got injured so we’re talking about a year out for Winston. I agree (he’ll have difficulty getting back in). He’s getting older and I think he’ll be likely to go in the summer if we can get any takers.”

They definitely don’t seem to need him in the same way they once did and his injury history makes him a bit unreliable, but things change fast in footy so can’t really overreact. Still waiting on a return date for him, it could be within the month or it could be next season. Don’t know anything at this point other than that he isn’t playing at the moment and that absence doesn’t always make the heart grow fonder.

Forever West Ham: “Reid hasn’t featured this season due to being injured and didn’t exactly overly impress in his 2017/18 campaign either. The 30-year-old played 20 times across all competitions last season and when you consider how many goals the club leaked, it says all you need to know about his performances. However while Reid is definitely likely to be on the chopping block like the Hammers insider claimed, you feel it will be hard to find another club willing to take him. It’s not because he isn’t a tremendous talent but when you consider his likely wages demands, his injury record and that he is 30-years-old, suitors won’t be banging down the door. Reid is contracted to stay until 2023 so there’s always a chance that even a respectable offer comes in the player will refuse to move and fight for his place instead. The centre-back has always appeared to love life at the Hammers so it’s hard to see him being willing to pack his bags.”

Up Next: Fulham vs WHU, 6.30am on Sunday… not that Winnie will be playing (NZT)

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