Flying Kiwis – December 18

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Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)

The last game of the year for all the Super League clubs was the last game of the WSL Cup, aka the Conti Cup, and for Chelsea that meant a trip across London to play Spurs in what was essentially a meaningless game having already qualified for the next round. But you still wanna finish off strong, especially when you’ve gone 10 games in all competitions without conceding a goal.

No dramas there. Chelsea made it eleven clean sheets in a row against Spurs, scoring twice in the first twenty minutes and then bossing their way to a 5-0 win in the end. That’s cool but what’s cooler was that Ali Riley was given her second start as a Chelsea player in this one (seventh match overall) and she celebrated by doing what she’d come so close to doing off the bench in her last couple games… scoring her first goal for the club.

Hmm, yes. That’ll do. Very much so.

Chelsea FC: “Cooper was the first to strike, giving us the lead early on when she bundled home a corner kick after a mistake by the keeper, and not long after that Riley joined her in opening her account for the club. It's unlikely to be goal she'll forget anytime soon, as she curled an incredible shot into the far corner to put us in complete control at Cheshunt FC.”

Deanna Cooper, Karen Carney and Beth England (2) scored the other goals, which means Chelsea top the group with a perfect record and will get a home game in the quarters. Here are the full highlights to digest…

And because it’s that time of the year, time for some holiday cheer, the Chelsea lasses popped down to the local children’s hospital to spread those good vibes. Awesome work.

Ali Riley: “The staff are doing an incredible job, they are here day in day out working hard to try and make life as great as possible for the children and their families. We can come in and give them a little bit of a breather, take the attention of the kids and the families, and help them have a little bit of fun. It’s been an incredible experience and hopefully it has helped to take their minds off things for a little while whilst we have been here. It’s so important to do these type of visits as you can see how much fun everyone is having and for us it helps us feel that we are giving back to the people who give so much to us.”

Up Next: Chelsea vs Everton in the WSL, that’s on Monday 7 January 2019 (NZT)

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

Yeah not a whole lot to say about The Woodsman this week. With Tottenham Hotspur on the cards at Wembley old Sean Dyche figured he had a trick up his sleeve and adjusted the side to a back five, meaning only one striker and it was Ashley Barnes who got the nod. Lucky for Burnley they did at least catch Spurs a few days after a gruelling Champions League clash in which Lucas Moura’s 85th minute equaliser at Barcelona was needed to take them into the knockouts.

It’d be a similar story here as Burnley stuck firm at the back and, sure they offered almost nothing on attack, without a shot on target in the entire match, but as the game progressed and all that Spurs pressure still didn’t toll it got to where a point away from home was within their reach. Not to say that Dychey didn’t roll the diceys too, chucking on Chris Wood with ten minutes to play. Woody had… let’s see… seven touches of the ball and one shot off target. Mostly just defended though.

And then Spurs finally broke through. Substitute Christian Eriksen came on and found a spot of space in the box in the first minute of stoppage time and thrashed the bugger into the roof of the net past Joe Hart, who’d had another solid game until then. But Tottenham took the points late on with a 1-0 win. A tad annoying to see Woody drop out of the starters considering he actually scored at Wembley against Spurs last season. Not gonna get much easier either with a trip back to North London next week to play Arsenal.

Up Next: Arsenal vs Burnley, Sunday at 1.30am (NZT)

Jake Gleeson & Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

No sooner does one season end than the next one begins. The Timbers did brilliantly to make the MLS Cup final but defeat against Atlanta meant no time to nurse the wounds. Within a couple days they’d caught up to all these other teams by announcing their roster statuses ahead of the offseason. The good news is that Bill Tuiloma, after his playoff heroics, had his 2019 option picked up. The bad news is that Jake Gleeson wasn’t re-signed and will soon hit free agency.

Both probably as expected. Gleeson has been injured for the second half of the season and over the last two years never did enough to maintain his starter’s gig nor to win it back after losing it. He makes the great saves but there’s a feeling he isn’t reliable enough, whatever it ain’t a bad time to move on. Both kiwi MLS keepers are free agents now, after Stefan Marinovic was released a couple weeks back as part of what’s become a drastic rebuild for the Vancouver Whitecaps. Bill Tuiloma should keep a consistent role on the bench for Portland where he’ll be filling in across the back whenever there’s an injury or suspension. Granted his role does depend on what they do to add to the team.

On that note, here’s Gavin Wilkinson, the general manager of the club and 33-cap New Zealand international, having a chat about the future of the franchise at its end of season press conference. He’s sitting with head coach Gio Savarese and newly appointed technical director Ned Grabavoy.

And another one…

Up Next: Stay fit through the offseason

Katie Rood – Bristol City (English Super League)

Fresh off her first goal for Bristol City in the previous week, Katie Rood still wasn’t named to start for BC’s decisive WSL Cup clash with Birmingham… yet she did end up playing a huge part.

Bristol City needed to win by four goals in normal time to advance. That didn’t look like happening as the two teams pretty much cancelled each other out. Quality from Bristol City to hang in there with the better fancied team, even if Birmingham haven’t been as flash since their super start to the season, but they couldn’t fashion the chances to win it, let alone by four goals. Still, a great game from Sophie Baggaley in goal took them to the end of the ninety minutes with a clean sheet and, as is the custom in the Conti Cup, we were off to penalties to save splitting the points.

Katie Rood was subbed on in the 90th minute. Not much time to do much on the field but there was a significant role for her waiting soon after. Roodie was given the second penalty of the shootout, with Baggaley having just made the save to get her team back in it after they’d been 1-0 down following the first kick each. Sure enough Katie Rood buried her spottie and it was all level. Top corner even!

Birmingham then hit the post and Baggaley made another save which gave Ella Rutherford the chance to win it or Bristol City. Which she duly did. Not enough to make the next round but another positive result for BCWFC who have won four of their last five games in all comps including this one.

Up Next: Holiday break until they host Manchester City at 4am on January 7 (NZT)

Tyler Boyd – Vitória de Guimarães (Portuguese Primeira Liga)

Still not back in the squad after injury last month, Tyler Boyd did at least get a bit of a feature after last week’s award-winning time at the club gala (which is for the whole sports club, by the way, not just the football club)… here he is modelling the new range of gear available at the club store. Anyone still not finished that Xmas shopping (honestly, you should be ashamed of yourself!) take note.

Up Next: Cup footy away to Boavista, Thursday at 7am (NZT)

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

No goals for Brockie despite playing all but three minutes of the two Sundowns games this week. No goals for anyone in fact as they twice drew 0-0. The first game was at home to Baroka in the league and it was definitely a frustrating one against the Telkom Cup champs. Brockie went close to a winner just before halftime with a ‘stinging volley’ but the keeper made a fantastic save to deny him. Similar soon after the resumption when his glancing header was again well saved by keeper Elvis Chipezeze. Sundowns threw pretty much everything they had at trying to get that elusive goal but it wasn’t to be. Yet another draw in the PSL for the Brazilians.

And then on the weekend it was a very important one against Al-Ahli Benghazi of Libya in the first round of the CAF Champions League. This was the first leg, away from home (played in Egypt because of the political situation in Libya). The Sundowns manager had a moan that scouting info was super tough to find of their opponents and what they ended up getting was something very close to what they had in their previous game. A real defensive opponent who nevertheless managed to grind them down. Not the same level of chances for Brockie in the 87 minutes that he played, this one was a more straightforward nil-all. Another disappointing one not to win however it does put them in a good position all the same for the upcoming second leg. And you already know that old mate Jeremy Brockie loves a continental goal or ten… “In only two matches in the CAF Champions League, striker Jeremy Brockie has shown that he could just be the man Mamelodi Sundowns can rely on upfront to lead them to success. The 31-year-old has previously proven to be a hit on the continent, bagging 10 goals for SuperSport United on their way to the 2017 Confederation Cup final, where they lost to TP Mazembe. Judging by the way he has started in this season’s edition of the Champions League, with two goals against Leones Vegetarianos in the preliminary round, Brockie is fired up for the competition.”

Jeremy Brockie: “There are a couple of reasons why continental football brings out the best of me. Obviously you always want to test yourself at the highest level in football. Playing in the African competitions gives you that test. A lot of people struggle with the travelling and all the tough stuff that comes with CAF football. I get quite excited about it, going into a country I haven’t been to before. I go there with my eyes open and looking to learn about that country. I really embrace it because if you complain about it, it’s not good for anyone. It’s probably one of the reasons why I have done quite well in terms of scoring goals in the competition.”

Up Next: Home to Al-Ahly at some point on Saturday (NZT)

Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)

One more WSL player to get to, it’s Ria Percival. Only the Football Ferns’ most capped player in history is all. Ria’s been getting top minutes for the Hammers and it was no different as they booked a place in the Conti Cup quarters with a 2-0 win away to Charlton. Rosie Kmita scored the first in the 46th minute and Alisha Lehmann doubled that ten minutes later. A full ninety for Percy yet again, who is fast becoming a real key player for the Hammers. No flashy assists this week, just the standard taking care of business is all.

Up Next: After the break they’ve got Arsenal at home, Monday 7 January at 4am (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

Romane Bruneau: “This summer, in Lyon, where I had my contract but where I knew from the beginning that I was not going to play, I was asked if I wanted to continue like this or not and I was told that the door was open, after a year, if I wanted to go elsewhere. And I clearly wanted to give myself a chance to play, so I came here, even though there was Erin, because I knew competition could take place if the two babysitters were about the same level and that one had to break away from the other at certain times. I had been warned that competition was possible, so I thought, 'Why not?' At the beginning of the season, I was still in doubt at times, because I felt good at training and I was considered a number 2, because it was my job, I knew it; but at the same time I was told that I could play. So I doubted, but little by little I told myself that the competition was not closed and that with Erin in selection I had three games to prove myself. After, it's the coach's choice, but the competition is very open ... The best will play, I think.”

Speaking there, through the wonders of Google Translate, is the keeper who filled in for Erin Nayler while she was away from club duty with the national team. Skipping out on three games in the middle of the season is always a tad risky and Bruneau happened to play rather well in Erin’s absence. Well enough that she’s remained the starter for the two games since Nayler came back. That’s not great… though there’s nearly a month before FCGB plays again to win back the starting gig (if indeed she’s even lost it).

In their final game of the year, a stunning early free kick from Claire Lavogez was the difference in a 1-0 win away to Guingamp. That goal was scored in the fifth minute but there would be no more. Another positive result which gets them tied with third place on points going into the winter break.

Up Next: Bordeaux vs Dijon on Sunday 13 January at 2.30am (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

Aaaand Morecamble lost again. At least it was against the top team in the division though. Another full game for Stevie Old at the back but it wasn’t a pretty one. Lincoln City scored three first half goals and were bloody good value for the points. Harry Anderson scored a well worked first in the seventh minute. It was only a top save that kept John Akinde from making it two after he’d nutmegged Oldie on the edge of the area to break the defence, but that lad got there in the end after Alex Kenyon gave away a penalty for a clumsy shove and Akinde had no dramas casually sliding it in for 2-0. Then only a few minutes later an absolute rocket of a direct free kick from Jason Shackell did the business for a third. Kevin Ellison pulled one back with ten minutes left and it ended 3-1. Much better in the second half but they were also sorta allowed to be.

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

Meikayla Moore – MSV Duisburg (German Frauen-Bundesliga)

It gets chilly in Germany over this time of the year, which is why this week was the last round of games for basically two months. And Duisburg could seriously use the break after a solid defensive showing in the first half against Bayern Munich was ruined by four second half goals, losing 4-0 to make it merely two points gained from their last nine games. Duisburg aren’t expected to do much more than avoid relegation but they’ve lost their buffer margin now in that battle. Full game for Meikayla Moore, though Emma Rolston wasn’t in the squad.

Up Next: Winter break until mid-February

Aimee Phillips – USV Jena (German Bundesliga 2)

Huh, how about that? IN just her second start of the season, Aimee Phillips has helped Jena to a 3-2 victory at home to Saarbrücken. Phillips didn’t score but she was out there for all three goals before being replaced in the 68th minute on a yellow card. Jena were in an absolute mess a month or two back but have now won four straight games and are six unbeaten.

Best to put it this way, in the seven games that Aimee Phillips has featured in, whether as a starter or as an injury time sub, USV Jena have taken 16 points. In the other six games they’ve played the club has taken four points. Doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to figure that one out, clearly. Incredibly having been fighting relegation a month ago they’re now all the way up in sixth and in range of making a stab at promotion.

Up Next: Off on the break until February 10 when they’re home to Gütersloh (NZT)

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

Up Next: Still savouring the success

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