Flying Kiwis – November 5

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Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich II (German Liga 3)

Yeah so that happened. Bayern manager Niko Kovacs is gone-skees after a shocking 5-1 defeat away to Eintracht Frankfurt on the weekend, in which Jerome Boateng was sent off after nine minutes, finally brought it all to a boil. That was only their second defeat of the league season but they’ve also drawn three times and only won one of their last four and while they’re going good in the cup comps, with a perfect Champions League record and still in the DFB-Pokal, it hasn’t always been pretty and they did lose the Super Cup to Dortmund as well. It’s been huge wins followed by scrappy draws. They’re fourth in the Bundesliga, four points off top already and Kovacs was already under some pressure with President‎ ‎Uli Hoeneß and Chairman‎ ‎Karl-Heinz Rummenigge clashing over his position... and his patron Hoeneß is about to retire.

So this wasn’t unexpected, in fairness. And he wasn’t straight up sacked either because this decision came after a meeting of the head honchos of which Kovacs was a part. He’s not arguing this move. It’s a bit rough considering they’re trying to freshen up an ageing squad but so it goes in football... Bayern have very high standards.

How will this affect Sarpreet Singh? That depends on who the new manager is but to be fair, while Kovacs gave him plenty of time in preseason and said some very nice things about him, he hadn’t exactly given him a competitive debut yet. Just one seat on the bench for the Super Cup before their transfer window reinforcements were secured. And Kovacs has a bit of a reputation as a guy who prefers experience to potential anyway – plus Singh was only ever signed for the second team initially. This might even be a good thing for him, open up a few more opportunities (unless they get Jose Mourinho, of course).

But Sarpreet’s job doesn’t change. He’s just gotta keep on trucking for the reserves and playing great football like he has been ever since he joined up with that squad on a permanent basis. And, oh look, that’s exactly what he did once again this week...

Away to SV Meppen and Sarpreet’s footprints were on this one as early as the 21st minute before he curled in a picture perfect free kick delivery from the left side of the penalty area right onto Timo Kern’s head and Kern made it 1-0. Assist number five for Sarpreet Singh since he joined BM2. Meppen equalised ten minutes later when Deniz Undav scored a rather incredible bicycle kick, but into the second half now and Chris Richards put Bayern back on top with a powerful header in minute 51. Singh lurking at the far post just in case but not needed this time. Nah, it was the next one that was his. Two minutes after they retook the lead and it was 3-1, Singh making that late run into the penalty area, getting on the end of the cutback, and lashing it in for his second goal for the ressies. Both pretty bloody silky ones too.

Unfortunately that’s about when luck turned for Bayern. They went on to concede four goals in the last 16 minutes of the game and lost it 5-3, three of those goals coming after Joshua Zirkzee was sent off for losing his temper. Meppen also had a red card later on in stoppage time but as Bayern, pack with a parity of men, pushed forward right at the end to try for a parity of goals as well, they got split on the counter attack. The keeper was up in the box and Sarpreet Singh was the only man able to get back and challenge but he wasn’t able to stop Marius Kleinsorge scoring on the runaway.

Phew, yeah, so that’s what happened there. Underneath all the drama it was another excellent and influential performance from Sarpreet Singh though, who continues to excel in that German third tier.

Up Next: BM2 vs Magdeburg at 1am on Monday (NZT)

Nicole Stratford – USV Jena (German Bundesliga)

It’s sure been a funky few months for Nicole Stratford, the veteran Northern Lights defender and day job policewomen, who was rather stunningly called up for the Football Ferns World Cup squad after Meikayla Moore had been riled out late with an injury. She’d just gotten back in Aotearoa after a holiday to the UK where she’d been in the crowd watching as the Ferns beat England 1-0. She’d only gotten in on the FFDP thing at the start of 2019. Next thing she was warming up with the team ahead of their opener against Netherlands. Stratford was a surprise call-up having not represented New Zealand internationally since the 2008 U20 World Cup (she didn’t play at the World Cup, btw).

Now Stratford’s been called up again for the Ferns and their trip to China this month but more important in this sudden rise is that she also, days before being named in that squad, made a sneaky debut for USV Jena in Germany.

Where did this one come from? No idea. The German league started a couple months ago and there hadn’t been any NZ Football celebration like there usually (deservedly) is when a player out of the FFDP graduates to a professional contract overseas. But USV Jena had a couple reasons to get involved in all this. One is that it’s just right. Jena has been the home for so many kiwi footballers over the years. Amber Hearn, Abby Erceg, Ria Percival, and CJ Bott have all passed through those doors before so Stratord is really just carrying on a kiwi lineage.

And a lineage that is even stronger spread out across the league because she’s now the fourth current player in the Bundesliga from these humble shores. Ali Riley is at Bayern Munich. Paige Satchell is at SC Sand where she’s featured in fivsixe league games this season, all off the bench (most recently getting 25 minutes in a 4-0 loss to Turbine Potsdam). Plus currently out injured for MSV Duisburg with the same achilles problem that ended her World Cup so devastatingly early, is Meikayla Moore. So Stratford has gone from replacing Moore in the national team squad to following her to Germany where she could play against her. Moore is back running now and is hopeful to be back playing before the end of this season (leading into the Olympics).

And then the other issue for Jena is that they kinda suck. Through eight games they’re yet to win and have only drawn once. More than anything they need the defensive help because they’ve conceded 40 times in eight games, an average of five per game, which is 18 goals more than any other side has leaked already. They’ve had a good record of scouting kiwi defenders in the past so here’s hoping for another success story – USV Jena have just been promoted back up to the top flight but are five points off safety as it stands, albeit in the early stages still.

Nicole Stratford’s debut came off the bench against Bayern Munich, although Ali Riley was an unused sub. Stratty was introduced in the 73rd minute of a game that Bayern had long since taken control of. Two Carolin Simon goals in the opening 22 minutes were followed by Lineth Beerensteyn adding a third straight after the second half kicked off and that’s the way it stayed. Stratford was the third sub used by Jena, replacing midfielder Merza Julević (though presumably playing in central defence where she specialises).

Up Next: International break first, then USV Jena are away to Hoffenheim at 1am on Sunday 17 November in the German Cup (NZT)

Clayton Lewis – Scunthorpe United (English League Two)

The Flying Kiwis giveth and the Flying Kiwis taketh away. Just as Nicole Stratford was getting out there for her club debut with USV Jena, Clayton Lewis was finalising a mutually agreed release from his contract with Scunthorpe United.

Clayton Lewis: “I’d like to thank everyone at the club for making me feel so welcome during my time at Scunthorpe United and I am very grateful to have been given an opportunity to come and play football in England, but after being given a chance to play games back in New Zealand, I feel like it is an opportunity to get back to playing regularly. In doing this, I am hoping to further my career back home, as I work towards being in the New Zealand Under-23s’ manager’s thoughts for the Olympics in Tokyo next year.”

This wasn’t a surprise. There had been rumours of him wanting to return home and after getting messed around with so many different managers and so few opportunities, not to mention an untimely injury in preseason ahead of this the last year of his contract, it’s probably for the best. Graham Alexander was in charge when Lewis arrived in October 2017. He was the first of five different gaffers that Lewis played (or didn’t play) for. He finally got an extended run in the lineup under interim boss Andy Dawson towards the end of last season but new boss Paul Hurst never seemed too bothered with him despite the club’s struggles on the park and at that rate he wasn’t gonna get a new contract anyway so might as well get a headstart on the next phase of his career... especially with the Olympics on the horizon and Lewis having played so well in qualifications for that one.

So what’s next? Well this was swift...

There might have been some chat about the Wellington Phoenix but the thing is, he can’t sign for the Phoenix until January because he wasn’t a free agent at the time the last A-League transfer window closed (they might have wrangled some kind of ‘exceptional circumstances’ argument - which requires FIFA approval – but unlikely). Which meant that the Premiership was the obvious landing place, however he’ll need to sit out 30 days from his last pro game to regain his amateur status... that last pro game being a goal-scoring appearance for the Scunthorpe U23s in a 5-2 win over Bottesford Town last week.

Coincidentally his one goal for the club came two years to the day before his release (in a Checkatrade Trophy game against Doncaster Rovers in which he was man of the match).

Up Next: The Premmy Files, catch it each Monday on TNC

Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

Right. Okay then. Still not over that old niggling hammy tweak and without him the Clarets had another poor performance. Football is a team game and imbalance in one area can unexpectedly affect anotehr area but not sure you can blame the absence of The Woodsman for Burnley conceded four times to Chelsea in the opening hour last week and then being 3-0 down at half-time away at Sheffield United this time.

Sean Dyche: “Chris Wood is touch and go. He’s making a good recovery but you always get those moments of decision, should we, shouldn’t we? The player’s included in that and we’ll talk to him over the next 24 hours about that.”

Obviously the decision was made on the cautious side but touch and go suggests he’s a good bet to be back in the lineup next week. One thing that’ll be interesting to see is if he is fit, which two strikers does Dyche pick out of him and Ashley Barnes and Jay Rodriguez. All three have scored goals this season, all three have had their chances in the starting team as well.

Here’s the latest update from the gaffer: “"He was really close. We decided that the bigger picture was going to be more important because with hamstrings you never know if he plays and then it goes then it could be who knows how long. It was a bit of common sense between him the medical team and myself to try and make sure next week he is clean. He has every chance (for next week).”

Up Next: Burnley vs West Ham, Sunday at 4am (NZT)

Katie Rood - Lewes FC (English Championship)

Ooh yes what a strike. And not a bad opposition to bring it out against either, with Lewes hosting Chelsea in the Conti Cup – that’s regular England centreback Millie Bright that she picks the ball off and Bright’s international teammate Carly Telford in goal who Roodie strikes it past.

This goal made it 1-1 in the 18th minute after Erin Cuthbert had opened the scoring for Chelsea. And as Lewes were able to scrap in there and hold the Super League giants to a 1-1 scoreline at the break there was a possibility that they might even get a famous result out of it all too. They almost didn’t play at all, by the way, with torrential rain earlier in the morning requiring a pitch inspection before the game could go ahead although when the rain returned in the second half it was probably to Lewes’ benefit in trying to hang on.

Ultimately the international class of Chelsea won out though. The Blues had been pressing hard for a winner basically ever since Katie Rood levelled it up and finally they got it when Norway’s Magdalena Andersson slammed one home in the 80th minute. So close. However still a performance that could kickstart their season again, having lost three league games in a row (also three WSL Cup games but these ones don’t really count). What’ll also help things is having their kiwi international forward back after Roodie missed a couple weeks with a little injury recently. This was her first goal of the season.

Up Next: Back in that Footy Ferns squad so there you go

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

Bouncing back to winning ways immediately and this is becoming a pattern for Bordeaux, who don’t have the resources to compete with the two big dogs in the French league but can sweep the floor with most of the rest (Montpellier in that same situation, Bordeaux beat them earlier in the season... but also lost to Guingamp to cancel that one out – although Guingamp just held PSG to a draw so what do ya know?). The task this week was Soyaux, who had drawn three in a row prior including a 1-1 against Montpellier.

And FCGB wasted little time in getting on that front foot. Claire Lavogez had already drawn an impressive save with a pile-driver from distance before Ghoutia Karchouni showed some slick feet to beat a defender and score in the tenth minute. That lead didn’t last long, however. As her defence misjudged a throw in to the near post Erin Nayler came sliding over but couldn’t get to the ball before Sarah Cambot slipped it past her, 1-1 after 16 minutes.

It was still 1-1 at the half and Nayler had to use all of her length to tip away a shot early in the second jsut to keep it that way. But Bordeaux were always threatening. Eventually they got their breakthrough when Viviane Asseyi’s low cross somehow snuck inside the far post in the 73rd minute and from then on they romped home. Lavogez broke the offside trap to slam in a third ten minutes later and Khadija Shaw got her prerequisite goal deep in stoppage time thanks to a regrettable bit of goalkeeping. 4-1 to Bordeaux, who were also boosted by Montpellier’s 3-0 defeat against Lyon, getting FCGB within one point of regaining third place.

Up Next: International break... then Metz away on Saturday 16 November (NZT)

Marco Rojas – SønderjyskE (Danish Superliga)

Sonders weren’t really expected to get anything away at FC Copenhagen but they still won’t be too happy with the way it all unfolded. First was a bit of a weird penalty that they conceded after quarter of an hour, for a handball blocking a shot that didn’t really look like much of a handball. Not as bad as Louis Fenton’s for the Phoenix on Sunday but still. Then when Sonders thought they’d equaliser after 32 minutes it was disallowed for a lino flag. Cheeky little corner routine there, with Marco Rojas involved in it, but it backfired.

Then into the second half and they conceded another penalty, this time for rugby tackling on a set piece and there was no drama there – in fact you could have tossed a coin as to which bit of grappling you wanted to penalise. Pep Biel scored the first, Michael Santos scored the second spottie. Then to make matters worse somehow Pieros Sotiriou managed to run between about four defenders and tap in for a third in the 86th minute (after a delightful free kick delivery, to be fair). Marco Rojas was subbed off in the 76th minute. A 3-0 defeat means three losses on the trot for Sonders, who remain in tenth on the ladder.

Up Next: Away to AGF on Monday at 2am (NZT)

Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

She had a bit of a rest for the league game on the weekend as Bayern bagged a 5-2 win over FC Köln which keeps them in the mix in third place on the Bundesliga ladder. Five points clear of fourth but six points back from Wolfsburg in first. Riley wasn’t even in the squad for that one. But perhaps that’s because she got a big ninety minutes in the Champions League round of 16 against BIIK-Kazygurt.

Bayern had already won the first leg 5-0 so they could afford to make a few alterations to the squad. And that margin of comfort got even greater at home as Carina Wenninger whacked in a goal ten minutes into this home leg as well. Which was the way it stayed for most of the game, though not for a lack of trying. Eventually Wenninger scored a second with ten minutes remaining and the 2-0 result did the trick, Bayern advancing to the quarters with a 7-0 aggregate win. And now they await the draw, with Arsenal, Lyon, PSG, Wolfsburg, Glasgow City, Atletico Madrid, and Barcelona the other quarter-finalists. Oh hey and you know what else makes this otherwise routine second leg win special? It was Ali Riley’s birthday. Happy birthday Ali.

Up Next: Sunday 17 November, home against Wolfsburg in the DFB-Pokal quarters at 2am (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

Finally got that official confirmation of his contract extension, along with fellow CB (and MLS Defender of the Year) Ike Opara...

MNUFC sporting director Manny Lagos: “We’re really excited to have re-signed both. They’ve been incredibly important to our success this year. Michael’s been with us for a couple years now and really has grown and evolved both as a person and as a player and has become a really big influence on the club in a lot of ways. With Ike being Defender of the Year and having him being committed for a couple more years is exciting. We’re excited to get some continuity in an area of the field that we’ve been trying to grow, evolve and get better at.”

Head coach Adrian Heath: “We’re obviously delighted we managed to tie the pair of them down. Anybody who’s watched us on a regular basis will understand the commitment and the level of performance that Ike and [Boxall] have done. Early on through the year, it became very clear that we wanted to move forward with these two guys. It’s an area of the field we feel we’re very blessed with really good players. It’s been a great year for [Ike and Michael], obviously culminating in Ike winning Defender of the Year but I think that easily could have been Boxy with the level of performance that he’s done. They’re both a manager’s dream, both come in everyday, do the work, great professionals on and off the field and great teammates."

Nobody actually says how many years they’ve signed for but it has to be at least two, so that’s nice.

Up Next: All Whites duty, most likely

Nikko Boxall – Viborg FF (Danish Division 1)

No sooner had they gotten back to the top of the ladder than they threw that lead away again. Jakob Bonde Jensen’s goal had Viborg up 1-0 away from home at HG Koge with about a dozen minutes remaining. The box seat, basically. How exactly they’d been able to survive a handful of close calls in the first half is anyone’s guess but Jensen’s goal was just what they needed, heading in after Nikko Boxall had risen about three feet off the ground to nod a free kick back across the goal.

But then a long ball just over Boxall’s head saw a striker able to skip past the keeper... who then horse-collared him. Red card for Ellery Balcombe and from the resulting penalty Martin Koch levelled up before Liam Jordan won it in the 89th minute with an actual rocket of a volley. That’s a kick in the guts, that one. Viborg drop one point below Vejle now after fifteen games each.

Up Next: Viborg vs Naestved, Saturday at 6am (NZT)

Rebekah Stott & Vic Esson – Avaldsnes IL (Norwegian Toppserien)

The Norwegian league still has one more round to play, coming back to wrap it up for 2019 after the international break, but Avaldsnes already know their fate. A 1-1 draw away to Vålerenga means they cannot finish higher than fifth or lower than fifth. So fifth it is.

Which is actually a great effort because you might remember this team failed to win any of their first seven games this year. But once they got it going with a 4-0 win over Stabæk, they really got it going. They won 10 of their next 15 league games to roar into the comforts of the midtable. Rebekah Stott has been hugely influential. She’s started all 21 of their league games, while picking up just one yellow card. Vic Esson has started 10 games – though none since mid-October when she was subbed off late in a 2-1 defeat to Lillestrøm with a suspected knee injury. She’s in the current Footy Ferns squad though so can’t have been too bad.

Up Next: Avaldsnes vs Trondheims-Ørn at midnight on Sunday 17 November (NZT)

Ria Percival – Tottenham Hotspur (English Super League)

Little bit of a rest for Ria ahead of the international break, only asked to play the last twenty minutes of Spurs’ 3-0 WSL Cup win over Crystal Palace. Anna Fibley had scored in the sixth minute and while Spurs had the better of the game they still hadn’t put it to bed as they closed in on the late stages to Percival came in to help maintain that clean sheet. Mission accomplished.

They also added two more goals thanks to Kit Graham and Lucy Quinn and with that result Spurs remain in contention to make it into the quarters with two games remaining in their group... though they might need to get something off Chelsea next game to make it happen. It’s a tough run of games after the international break actually with arch rivals Arsenal up next before that Chelsea WSL Cup match.

Up Next: Tottenham vs Arsenal, Super League, Monday 18 November at 4am (NZT)

Olivia Chance – Bristol City (English Super League)

And in the other WSL/Conti Cup game featuring a kiwi, Olivia Chance got the full ninety minutes as Bristol City equalising in the second half against London Lionesses for a 1-1 draw but missing out on the bonus point from the penalty shootout. It had been an ideal start to spotties when Sophie Baggaley saved at the first attempt but Olivia Chance had her (BCFC’s third attempt) tipped onto the post and another miss on the fifth attempt from Carla Humphrey, who had almost won the game in regulation time with a killer strike that rocked agonisingly off the crossbar, doomed BCFC to the... half defeat? Well, they drew, technically, they just don’t get the bonus point from the penalties. It’s a unique format.

Up Next: International break, then Reading away in the league at 3am on Monday 18 November (NZT)

James Musa – Phoenix Rising (American USL Championship)

Uh-oh. It might have been a record breaking season but the Rising couldn’t get it done in the playoffs, losing 2-1 to Real Monarchs in the Western Conference semis. James Musa was an unused sub again so serves them right, clearly. Massive guts to The Moose though, who had lost consecutive USL grand finals and now this upset defeat after looking the best team in the competition for the past three months.

Up Next: Drown some sorrows

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

And then there was one. At the start of the season it looked like we might wrangle three different Flying Kiwis in League Two but Clayton Lewis never got his chance and Max Crocombe departed for Brisbane Roar... which turned out to be a great idea because he won their starting gig and is doing excellent there. But Steven Old is still turning up week after week for Morecambe and more often than not dealing with another disappointing result as they look set for a long and gruelling relegation battle.

Ah but not this week! This week they hosted Leyton Orient and an A-Jay Leitch-Smith goal in the 74th minute gave them a deserved 1-0 victory in a game where they didn’t often produce a lot of quality but they still had more of the key chances and eventually found a way through with that one crucial moment. Leyton Orient then came alive after the concession which made for a slippery last quarter of an hour for Oldie and the lads but they held on for just their second clean sheet since August. It doesn’t get them off the bottom of the table but it gets them within range.

Up Next: FA Cup first round away to Blackpool at 4am on Sunday (NZT)

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