Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)
Flying Kiwis got a tad delayed this week by holiday excursions but here we are with an absolute belter of a selection of New Zealand footy players doing excellent things on the global stage. Starting with the biggest drawcard of the lot of them, Mr Christopher Wood.
Old mate finally bagged another goal last Flying Kiwis, his first in a couple months, as Burnley found some form in beating West Ham. Chris Wood found some form too because he’s now scored in three games in a row. It began with a trip to Huddersfield and what was a pretty crucial game for two teams deep in that relegation scrap.
Burnley had the first meaningful chance of the game when Ben Mee and Ashley Barnes forced a double save from Jonas Lossl after a free kick (which Christopher Schindler had picked up a yellow card for conceding) but Huddersfield, with their physical approach, had caused some issues of their own too. Phil Bardsley had to clear off the line as Elias Kachunga rocked one off the noggin from a corner before Isaac Mbenza swung in a gorgeous cross for Steve Mounie and the Terriers were 1-0 up.
Not great for Burnley but that’s what Chris Wood is for. Five minutes before the break young Dwight McNeil continued his recent impressive form when he chipped and chopped and sent in a perfect sliding ball for Chris Wood’s run at the near post and The Woodsman deposited it into the net to tie it up. One of those intuitional finishes that great strikers deliver when they’re playing well and full of confidence. Two in two for Wood, though we probably should’ve guessed it was coming. His goal against West Ham was his fifth in four game s against them. His goal against Huddersfield was his ninth in eleven games against them – the most he’s scored against any club.
That strike also marked a real milestone for Woody as it was his 100th in English league competitions. Takes a while to get to a mark like that, but even still he’s only 27 years old.
Things turned back in their favour when Schindler got a second yellow before the half was over. Fouling McNeil, of course. It took some time to get the winner though. Wood had one with a header but he missed the target after Ash Westwood’s cross. He then set up Johann Berg Gudmundsson but his shot went straight at the keeper. They finally got there in the 74th minute after some nice work from Wood and Westwood (the woods) put Ash Barnes in and bingo, that’ll do. Burnley were also reduced to ten men near the end as Robbie Brady got silly but the Clarets stuck in there for an important 2-1 win.
So here he is, Burnley’s Chris Wood. He’s a kiwi plays up front. Scored on his debut and he’s only just begun…
Then it was Barnsley at home in the third round of the FA Cup. A winnable game against a lower league team for sure, granted the FA Cup has a way of making it tricky for the more fancied sides. Particularly when squad rotation comes into the show and Sean Dyche didn’t really have any choice but to mix it up with so many games recently. That meant James Tarkowski at right back. Nick Pope making his return to action after several months out injured. Steven Defour returning to action after injury too. Charlie Taylor on the wing. Jeff Hendrick in centre mid. Lots of change. Including Chris Wood being left on the bench.
And, erm, Burnley weren’t up to too much. Not a team with heaps of depth and especially not with blokes playing out of position. In truth it was a forgettable match. The whole thing was summarised by two penalties, a tale of two spotties. Both won by Matej Vydra. The first came in the first half and Vydra was just about to start his run up when the VAR intervened and the penalty was overturned. The second, coming late in the game after Chris Wood had been sent on to try grab a winner, was allowed to be taken. And with The Woodsman out there, there was nothing to worry about.
A tad lucky to avoid a replay there against a plucky Barnsley team – this was Wood’s fourth goal in seven against Barnsley, another team he likes playing – but in the end it was three wins in a row and the best week of footy of Burnley’s season as far as results go. Three goals in three straight games for Chris Wood too, not coincidentally. Second minute of injury time when he put this last one away. Get in!
Odd part about that is it’s now been 64 games since Burnley last were awarded a penalty in the Premier League but Wood has already scored two this season in Cup comps as well as another last season against his old side Leeds. Seems it’s only in the Premier League that rule applies or something, no spotties for the Clarets. Sucks considering old Woodsman’s the designated taker.
Also, somebody loves a third round FA Cup tie… guess what though? They drew Man City away in the fourth round. Yowza.
Up Next: Burnley vs Fulham, Sunday at 4am (NZT)
Ali Riley – Chelsea FC (English Super League)
Straight back at it for Chelsea and they picked up where they left off with a 3-0 win over Everton. That makes it 9 wins in a row, 11 games undefeated and, most incredibly, 11 straight clean sheets since losing 5-0 to Arsenal in October. Ali Riley didn’t start this one however, she was part of a 70th minute double sub just after the third goal went in. Beth England got Chelsea on the board in the 6th min, Drew Spence finally doubled that in the 60th and then Hannah Blundell ended all doubt in the 69th min, upon when Riley was chucked on at left back for Jonna Andersson (one of three Swedes at the back for CFC this day, along with Hedvig Lindahl in goal (who made this incredible save) and Magda Ericsson at CB… Ericsson who’ll be the next guest on Girls With Balls).
So not really a massively influential one for Ali there, but she took a bit more limelight a day or two later when she took over the FA WSL twitter account for a little Q&A session. Good fun. There are a fair few of these so bear with us but they’re all pretty interesting if you’ve been following the team closely…
Not done there either. There was also the small matter of the Conti Cup quarter-final against Reading played this very morning – good thing for the inclusive delay in publishing this week then – and with six changes to the team from the weekend that meant a start for Ali Riley. It also saw Fran Kirby make her first start since November after an injury and she looked like she’d never been away, taking the lead for The Blues in the third minute. Anita Asante got her first goal for the club later on in the half and Chelsea had a 2-0 lead at the half.
Reading came out hungry and nearly got back into it via Brooke Chaplen but she missed a shot she’d usually bury in her sleep. Chelsea managed to get back in control of the game after that however the killer blow was a long time in coming. No shortage of energy from Ali Riley, embracing the chance to play a full game, naturally. The third goal finally did come in the 87th minute as Kirby completed a brace. Which left just enough time for Ali Riley to apply the final coat of paint at the end, how about that? She’s now scored more goals for Chelsea in six months than she has for New Zealand in 119 caps, somehow. 12 clean sheets in a row for Chelsea as a team too.
Up Next: Revenge game… Arsenal vs Chelsea at 1.30am on Monday (NZT)
Marco Rojas – sc Heerenveen (Dutch Eredivisie)
We’re at that point where we’re starting to get a few more leagues resuming but the Dutch one is not among them, it’ll be two more weeks before Marco Rojas gets another chance to shine… and he might not even be at the same club then. See, Rojas is into the final six months of his contract and while the club has an option for another season it’s unlikely they’re into that. They’re already in a less than desirable financial state and have made suggestions that expensive foreign players are beyond them in this state.
The club is going to be a seller in the January window. Morten Thorsby has had an excellent first half of the season but is also into the last six months of his deal and doesn’t want to re-sign so he could leave in order to attract a fee. Arber Zeneli is similar as the Kosovan forward’s form has gotten him to where he’d also attract a decent fee.
Which leads us to this from Football-Oranje:
“Heerenveen are looking to slash their wage bill and are also open to offers for Marco Rojas, Yuki Kobayashi and Nemanja Mihajlovic.”
So it’s all a bit up in the air at the moment. Rojas has had a few cameos lately but for the most part he really isn’t getting much of a go this season. A transfer away, if it happens to happen, would make sense for Marco… although a look at those other names on the block and staying put might also help. It won’t likely get him a new contract but it could give him a chance to impress in the shop window. Thorsby, Zeneli, Kobayashi and Mihajlovic are all midfielders or forwards so every one of them that leaves is a step closer to more minutes for Marco. Thorsby is already in negotiations with Sampdoria, apparently. All a matter of seeing where the dominoes fall, since Rojas is hardly the tastiest dish on the table at the club for now. Which might work out nicely for him.
In the meantime, Heerenveen are in Germany on a training camp during the break which has given some of the local media an opportunity to reminisce upon an old Stuttgart signing.
Michael Meusch, Stuttgart staffer: “Marco is a great guy. Last year we met here too. It always pleases me when I see him. Marco Rojas is the same. He still knows the VfB pros Christian Gentner, Daniel Didavi and Timo Baumgartl from his time in Stuttgart and a lot of club staff members who have not changed as much as the squad and coaching team. There is always a big welcome.”
Marco Rojas: “I do not look back. I want to prove myself in preparation and hopefully change the opinion of the coach. I'm still fighting for a regular place, it's a good challenge.”
Up Next: Monday 21 Jan at 4.45am away to Ajax (NZT)
Ria Percival – West Ham United (English Super League)
The break came at the wrong time for West Ham, who had won four games in a row in all competitions. Bit hard to add to that streak when you’re hosting Arsenal next, to be fair. Break or no break, the Gunners have been the best team in the country this season. Always gonna be a massive fixture and a massive fixture requires a glamorous match programme…
The Hammers started brilliantly, taking the lead in the 11th min through Jane Ross. Leah Williamson and Janni Arnth then scored back to back to give Arsenal the lead but Ross got another just before half-time to leave it even at 2-2. West Ham, with Ria Percival getting yet another ninety minute stint at right back, did some great things this game. They created opportunities to score and stuck around in the contest. But they were a little too loose at the back and Danielle van de Donk’s second half double gave Arsenal a 4-2 win. A confidence booster in some ways and a real bummer in others.
It wasn’t likely to be much easier against Manchester United in the Conti Cup quarters. Man Utd are a league below the Hammers but are surging towards promotion in their first season of existence. Way too good for that level, to be honest. And it’s Manchester City next too. Playing both Manchester clubs in a week is no easy task. Playing them with Arsenal and Liverpool bookending those games is a completely ruthless one.
So it proved to be. West Ham went down 2-0 to Man United thanks to an own goal and a Jess Sigsworth strike. It’d be misleading to say that it was one-way traffic, WHU gave as good as they got and it took some quality saves from Chamberlain in goal to keep them out, especially while it was still 1-0. Jane Ross was denied from close range. Claire Rafferty hit one straight at her from a Ria Percival cross. Kate Longhurst then hit the post from range with a ripper of a shot early in the second half. But then Sigsworth got the second and it was always gonna be tough to come back from there. Percy did her best with a late crack off the woodwork, still the Conti Cup run ends in the quarters for WHU.
Dominated that Giant Festive Jenga too.
Up Next: West Ham vs Man City, 4am on Monday (NZT)
Katie Rood – Bristol City (English Super League)
Bristol City couldn’t have had many tougher games to start 2019, up against Manchester City, but tell you what they brought the goods. It took a whole lot of defending and a little luck to hold out as long as they did against one of the league’s title contenders. That meant not a whole lot of attacking action for Katie Rood who was named to start following some impressive performances towards the end of last year. Eventually all the pressure tolled and Man City took the lead ten minutes before the break through Nikita Parris.
Rood was then replaced as part of a double sub at half-time trying to alter the approach a little, get more of a high press going with players behind the ball, and although that didn’t really put an end to the backs against the wall nature of the game, sometimes all it takes is one chance. One chance like Lucy Graham getting taken down in the area and stepping up to convert the penalty and tie things up. That left half an hour to hold on or find a winner. Not much likelihood of the latter as Man City hit the bar twice in a row but the Sky Blues were a little careless and Bristol City were well up for it, holding on for a galvanising 1-1 draw against the odds.
Up Next: Monday at 3am away to Birmingham City (NZT)
Tyler Boyd – Vitória de Guimarães (Portuguese Primeira Liga)
Quick note here to say that Tyler Boyd is back, baby. Nine minutes against Nacional off the bench and then 32 minutes off the bench against Belenses four days later. Not a moment too late either as VSC lost both games 1-0. The second game had some real controversy at the end when Pedro Henrique thought he’d levelled it up from a corner kick but the goal was immediately disallowed by the ref for an alleged foul on the keeper by… Tyler Boyd… which the club’s twitter account wasn’t too happy with, safe to say. Kinda got to agree with them too, if anything it’s the keeper who grabs Ty back here, not the other way around.
This was after Boyd made his return from injury when he played 19 mins in a Cup game just before Christmas. Getting his way back into the starting XI will be difficult with the depth at the club but he’s fully fit and firing again so he’s up for the challenge. Vitoria are still sixth on the ladder despite the two defeats and can rise up to fifth with a win against Moreirense next week.
Gotta get this fella on the free kicks too, sheesh.
Up Next: Saturday at 10.15am at home to Moreirense (NZT)
Jeremy Brockie – Mamelodi Sundowns (South African Premier Soccer League)
There’s always some Jerry Brockie news going on and he was pretty involved as Sundowns began the new year with a massive 2-1 win away at Kaizer Chiefs, a result against another typically strong South African club which gets them right back into the title race despite all their draws. They’re only fourth with an eight point deficit to first but with four games in hand that’s nothing beyond their capabilities.
The Brazilians had a perfect start as Anthony Laffor cut inside, played a clever one-two with Gaston Sirino, and slipped the ball in the net in the third minute for the lead. Brockie then played a decent part in the second goal… but it was at the wrong end. Here’s Sport24.za describing the incident…
“However, Chiefs showed character and a real composure in their play as they drew level inside the first 15 minutes. Hendrick Ekstein showed great skill to bamboozle Thapelo Moreno, who brought down the diminutive attacker on the right wing. Subsequently, Khama Billiat's free-kick saw Jeremy Brockie fluff his clearance at the near post before the ball deflected to Katsande at the far post. The destroyer showed a striker's eye for goal as he re-directed a diving header into the back of the net beyond Kennedy Mweene.”
Sundowns looked good for a second goal for most of the game but were wasteful in the second half especially. Brockie was eventually subbed off with twenty to play with Sundowns struggling for that bit of skill to get the points… yet in the end they didn’t need it. The difference between the two sides turned out to be a horror goalkeeping error, as Virgil Vries came out for a long cross and was left stunned as it bounced over his head for Lebogang Maboe to poke home into an empty net. Harsh on Chiefs who had a great start to the second half, looking strong in the midfield, but without the goals to show for it that doesn’t really matter.
Jeremy Brockie: “It is nice to be still unbeaten in the league. It is good that we are turning our draws in to wins now. The team is getting stronger and we must keep on collecting points. The 2-1 win against Chiefs was good. We can’t get ahead ourselves. We have to turn our games in hand into points and close the gap. At Mamelodi Sundowns we want to win every trophy on offer and we also want to win the league.”
Focus now turns to the Champions League for Sundowns, who are currently in Nigeria for the start of their group stage matches. The lads will face Lobi Stars on Saturday morning but they won’t have their kiwi striker to call upon. He’s suspended for that one.
Brox: “I won’t travel but I’m backing the guys to do the job in Nigeria. I think it is going to be physically encounter. Last season we didn’t do well in the group stages and we want to improve on that this season.”
Up Next: Lobi Stars vs MS, Saturday at 5am (NZT)
Rebekah Stott – Melbourne City (Australian W-League)
Last time City played Victory in the W-League Melbourne Derby, Rebekah Stott was away with the Footy Ferns. One of several players unavailable for City that day as the Victory lived up to their name with a 2-0 result. This time both sides were close to full strength (other than City losing Kyah Simon for the season with injury) and with the race for the top four as close as it is both teams needed more than just the bragging rights.
Both teams showed up to play. Tameka Butt had an early chance for City but wasn’t able to get a shot away. Then Victory had a spell of dominance with plenty of organised defence needed from Stotty and the team to repel their repeated waves of attacks. Yet it was only a shot narrowly wide from Elise Kellond-Knight and a brilliant save a while later from Casey Dumont from Butt which kept City from taking the lead. Each team continued to push forward in the second half and Natasha Dowie shoudla done better for MV when she got through, while Dumont again denied Butt with some sharp keeping. Dumont would need physio attention later on after copping a knock from a teammate coming out for a cross.
It had started to feel like we simply weren’t getting a goal here, that both teams would head home with a tame but valuable point from the derby. And then this happened…
Bugger. Absolute screamer from Christine Nairn, the American, directly from the corner kick. It means that the Victory go top of the table, where they’ve spent most of the season, and it means that lose some momentum after three straight wins and remain a point out of the top four… though that could change when they play fourth-placed Brisbane Roar on Friday night. Full game for Stott here at centre-back, by the way. So close to that crucial clean sheet against the top side.
Up Next: Friday night at home to Brisbane Roar at 7.20pm (NZT)
Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League One)
Clayton Lewis continuing to get minutes for the Iron. Didn’t accomplish a whole lot only playing a dozen minutes in a 2-1 win over Coventry, coming on just after Coventry had scored to get back into it following a couple second half goals (one to James Perch in the 67th min and one to Levi Sutton in the 74th), but the win was the important thing in a game where Scunthorpe had far more shots at goal. Couple that with their win over Peterborough in the previous game, which Lewis was an unused sub for, and they’ve shot up the table a few spots to 17th. They’re not about to challenge for promotion this season but the more space they put between themselves and relegation the better. This win lifted them out of the drop zone altogether.
No fresh word on whether Lewis is being considered for a January loan out or anything, he’s beginning to play more often off the bench so looks like he stays put now. That might depend on what other business they do though. Lewis also got ninety minutes in a friendly game against Grimsby Town, which ended 1-1 and featured a couple trialists as well as four new signings and a few other fringe players. That one took place behind closed doors so no pics, sorry. Sounds like he did decent though, a bit unlucky not to end with a goal or an assist.
Scunthorpe United: “Clayton Lewis was next to come close on 36 minutes, as a corner was played short to Hammill. He then fed the ball to Lewis in the area and his powerful strike was beaten away for a further corner… Pugh had a powerful effort blocked in the 86th minute by a defender, as Lewis’ low cross was only partly cleared. Then, Dales’ right-wing cross was knocked back across goal by Lewis for Okafor, but he slipped at the vital second as he looked for a shot on goal.”
Up Next: Sunday at 4am away to Walsall (NZT)
Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)
Two games, 180 minutes for Steven Old. Only one point for Morecambe.
First they went down 2-0 at home to Carlisle, creating as many chances to score in that game but losing to a goal in each half, one for Jamie Devitt and the other for Jack Sowerby. Close one that went the wrong way and then they drew 2-2 with Crewe in another evenly contested clash but after going into the sheds down 1-0 to a deflected James Jones goal, it looked like the Shrimps had won it when Kevin Ellison scored in the 84th minute to add to Andrew Tutte’s earlier equaliser, a lovely curling free kick. Not the way it was to be.
Morecambe had already twice had chances cleared off the line so were happy to push forward and try to win this thing. That led to Stevie Old hanging out at the far post and his knockdown to Ellison set up a fine volley for the 2-1 lead and the Shrimps ran off celebrating like they’d won. There was still time for Jordan Cranston to hit the post from a free kick… but deep into injury time a Crewe forward took a tumble and the ref pointed to the spot. Chris Porter slotted from the spot in the 94th minute and the game ended 2-2. Two more points left on the table in a frustrating manner, they still need plenty more of those points to stay clear of the drop zone.
Up Next: Away to Exeter at 4am on Sunday (NZT)
Olivia Chance – Everton (English Super League)
Yeah, that’s what we wanna see. Getting back out there after a long time on the sidelines recovering from that ACL injury. Chancey had a massive breakout season last time but it ended on a stretcher, now she’s getting ready to return just in time to get back into World Cup squad contention. Apparently she trained all the way through the holidays while the rest of her teammates at Everton were on their break – only resting on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Commitment and dedication.
Olivia Chance: “First and foremost, of course, I want to get back playing for Everton. But there is a big hope and dream that I can play in France come June. That keeps me going when I have those tough days. For me personally, this injury is a step back, but it is not the end of the world. There are plenty of people out there who deal with career ending injuries or illnesses so that realisation has made it easier to deal with. The biggest thing that an injury teaches you are who the good people are around you and who is with you. Those people are huge and will help you get through the injury. In recovery, you don’t always show your true emotions but having the right people around you helps carry you through it. We have got me back on the pitch and they have gone well. The knee has shown really positive signs, no swelling and has shown that it is able to handle running. But I know there is still a long way to go. But I’ve had a big smile on my face being out on the pitch again, and I can’t wait to be enjoying my football again.”
Up Next: Away to Brighton on Monday at 3am (NZT)
Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)
Winston Reid: “I really like the Dallas Cowboys to go a long way in the Play-Offs, seeing as they're at home to the Seahawks and they have a good defence and running game with Ezekiel Elliott. They won't be able to beat the Saints in New Orleans, though. On the other side, Kansas City has such a good offense with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback and I can see them beating New England at home in the AFC Championship game. The Super Bowl should be a high-scoring classic and I think Drew Brees and the Saints will come out on top!”
Up Next: ???
Ryan Thomas – PSV Eindhoven (Dutch Eredivisie)
PSV.Supporters.NL: “The Eindhovens Dagblad reports that Ryan Thomas is on track to be able to make his comeback with PSV during the second half of the season. The midfielder who came over from PEC Zwolle suffered a serious knee injury four months ago. A concrete date of his return is not yet to be indicated, but things are going in the right direction with the New Zealander. Thomas had a recovery period of 6 to 9 months. He would probably only really be on level after those 9 months. In the past period he has worked with physiotherapist Rob Ouderland on a return in the remaining months of the competition.”
So there you go, Ryan Thomas is on track to be available before the end of the season. Flying Kiwis hasn’t been the same without him… if only there were semi-regular comeback updates on Winston Reid like there have been on Thommo and Olivia Chance.
Up Next: Still on the rehab bus
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