Flying Kiwis – August 13

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Chris Wood – Burnley (English Premier League)

(Quick note at the start, we always drop a line at the end of these things but not everyone reads to the end, naturally, but yeah if you do appreciate the whole Flying Kiwis chat each week and all the other writings and recordings (check out our podcast, chief) we offer up here on TNC then please chip in on our Patreon to help support it all – it’s readers like you that make this possible so cheers to you)

Coming into the new season following on from some tantalising preseason form, it took Chris Wood just quarter of an hour to have the ball in the back of the net. Only drama was that it didn’t count. Ashley Barnes had been offside in the lead up so Woody’s simple tap-in was rubbed off.

Up against Southampton, it took a while for the Clarets to settle. They had trouble with the pace of Che Adams and Nathan Redmond at first and were lucky not to go behind when Adams slipped one into the side-netting at the far post. As expected after preseason it was Wood and Barnes who started up topskees with Jay Rodriguez on the bench, though most important was the unbroken partnership of Ben Mee and James Tarkowski at the back who each played excellent games, coming into more prominence after that rocky opening spell and allowing Burnley to begin to dig their heels into this clash. It was still scoreless at the break… but we did get a double bicycle kick attempt from the two Burnley strikers so that was surely worth it…

The weather was atrocious in Burnley and it didn’t get much better as the game went on. Truth be told Chris Wood was a little sloppy himself at times, his touch not always there where he wanted it. However it was the slipperiness on the deck that caused the big breakthrough. Jack Stephens’ slip had led to the disallowed goal that Wood scored, while Jan Vestergaard’s stumble after misjudging a swerving high ball in the 63rd minute was what gave Ash Barnes the room to storm in behind the defence and unleash a strike that Saints keeper Angus Gunn then missed between his legs. Nick Pope made a couple top saves at the other end, Gunn couldn’t match the production and Burnley were in front.

After that they turned on the turbo for about fifteen minutes. Barnes added a second in the 70th minute when he expertly polished off a lovely deep cross from new fella Erik Pieters (which juuust evaded a leaping attempted header from Wood in the middle… probably for the best considering what happened). Then five minutes after that Johann Berg Gudmundsson nicked the ball in midfield and with Woody screaming for the square ball across goal he took the shot himself and buried it. A lovely finish and at 3-0 up the Clarets could cruise to a perfect start to the new season from there.

This was one of those games where the ball didn’t quite fall for The Woodsman, who worked hard but didn’t always see the benefits. He won’t care about that considering the result though. That hard work was key in the way Burnley played and on another day those chances are falling for him and not Barnesy… who almost had a hatty when he snuck in front of the keeper but he couldn’t slip that ball in from a tight angle – with Wood standing centrally staring at an open goal. So it goes sometimes. The important thing to know is that with three offsides in his first game he’s on track to beat his tally of 53 from last season (which was fifteen clear at the top of the list). Wood’s tied with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Glenn Murray on three after the opening weekend.

Burnley Express Player Ratings: “Chris Wood - Still offside far too often, it wasn’t one of his better days, but helped contribute to a superb start to the season (6)”

Meanwhile in other news: “Burnley’s players had a big result on Sunday at Chester as Breathalyze won in the 7f novice stakes. The victory of Breathalyze was the first success for More Turf Racing, a syndicate consisting of Clarets players Jack Cork, Matt Lowton, Nick Pope, James Tarkowski and Chris Wood - also former fan-favourite striker Sam Vokes, who now represents Championship side Stoke City. Cork, an England international with one cap, came up with the idea of the ownership group, who have two horses with Cheshire trainer Tom Dascombe.”

Yeah so a half-dozen of the lads own a race horse and it won its first race (at just the second attempt) a few days before the footy season started, so obviously a good omen. All the fellas were there to celebrate and they were even joined by a certain Michael Owen, who’s got an ownership stake with the Dascombe stable. Apparently he’s a Burnley fan now, which is nice.

Up Next: Arsenal vs Burnley, Saturday at 11.30pm (NZT)

Rosie White – Seattle Reign (American National Women’s Soccer League)

The first time that Seattle played Portland this season it was a tight and competitive game where clear-cut chances were at a minimum and the Reign won it thanks to a single goal scored in the 55th minute. Playing in the midweek against Portland again, this time at home, there were a few extra shots and the footy was a tad more open but it was no less competitive… and once again was decided by a 55th minute winner for a 1-0 Seattle victory.

Rosie White wasn’t around for the first game against Portland but she started the previous week for the first time for her new club and scored the only goal in a 1-0 win over Houston. Clearly there’s some circular symmetry going on here because guess who scored the only goal in the Portland game? Rosie White, of course. Her second match-winner in two starts (playing from midfield both times too).

Hovering around in the right place at the right time. It wasn’t her only chance either. Just like her first two appearances for the Reign, once off the bench and one as a starter, White was a big presence around the penalty area getting several shots off. Here she played 83 minutes before she was replaced near the end with Seattle trying to shut it down, and in those 83 minutes were several chances. Skipping through the defence in the first half but unable to get a shot away. A crack from distance that went off target. The goal itself. And just a little while after the goal she curled one onto the crossbar from the edge of the penalty area. She might have been a midseason acquisition but coming in after Jess Fishlock’s injury and with the USA internationals all in and out of the squad she’s been crucial to this team consolidating a spot in the top four (as it stands). Oh yeah and let’s not ignore the outstanding defensive effort to keep the top scoring team in the NWSL scoreless here.

Seattle Reign boss Vlatko Andonovski: “I think [White has brought] her creativity. I think when we lost [Jess Fishlock], obviously [Megan Rapinoe] hasn't played and we’re missing a little creativity and I think that’s where Rosie steps in and gives us a little bit of that. It wasn’t just a goal, she hit the crossbar a couple times. She connected well with the players. That’s what we’re getting from her. I don’t think it’s enough but I think there is still a lot to come.”

Also not to Tom Sermanni, attacking midfield is where it’s at…

Rosie White: “This definitely is where I feel most comfortable. It’s a position that I’ve been wanting to play, and I’ve never really had a solid role — and I think Vlatko agrees that this is my base position, which is really nice that we’re on the same page about that. I hope that I’ll keep improving, I know I have a lot of learn in that role. The coaches have been really detailed and they’ve pointed out things to me, you know, small details in my movement and getting myself in good positions where I can get on the ball, just really encouraging me to be aggressive and defensively sound because that’s really valuable to them… I think that’s something that I can add to my game and keep adding to and improve upon.”

And then they played again a few days later, Seattle’s third game in eight days, up against Katie Bowen and the Utah Royals. It was a game that went in a very different direction… so we’ll give that one to KB’s section.

Up Next: Monday at 5am away to Sky Blue (NZT)

Katie Bowen – Utah Royals (American National Women’s Soccer League)

A good old Flying Kiwi derby, gotta love it. And both of them were in the starting line-ups too, in fact both played the full game. Rosie White in an attacking midfield role and Katie Bowen at right back. Which meant that they only occasionally crossed each other’s path but that’s footy.

Also footy is that all streaks must end… and Seattle’s sure came to a shuddering halt here. They were behind in the third minute as Katie Stengel almost accidentally kneed in a wide-open rebound after some sublime work from Amy Rodriguez down the right – with Katie Bowen hanging back in support. Seattle began to get back into it through Jodie Taylor in particular, though it was Shea Groom’s first-time pile-driver that had us tied at the half.

Wasn’t to last though. A wonderfully composed goal from Lo’eau La Bonta skipping right down the middle of the defence made it 2-1 before Rodriguez got herself a goal following up on a fumble from the Seattle keeper. 3-1 was the final score, a result that gets Utah back in the mix for the top for but also not really a game in which either kiwi was massively involved just by the way things ran.

Huge result for Utah. Especially coming after they’d been on a bit of a down turn lately. Here they weren’t able to keep a clean sheet but with three goals to go with the 3-0 win over Sky Blue few days earlier it means they scored more goals last week than in their previous nine games combined. With Utah only two points behind Seattle on the ladder now there’s still a chance we can get three kiwis in to the semis.

Alright, that’s the footy covered, now do yourself a favour and absorb this beautiful little doco from the Utah Royals crew…

Up Next: Orlando Pride vs Utah Royals, Sunday at 11.30am (NZT)

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

Take a peek at all those names and you’ll see a familiar one. Well, a few familiar ones but that name ‘Singh’ stands out. It was only a friendly match against a massively overmatched local team while Bayern were away on training camp but it’s a first goal for Sarpreet Singh for the Bavarians. Singh played the second half of the game alongside the likes of Thomas Muller, Joshua Kimmich, and Lucas Hernandez. You can spot the goal in here somewhere if you’re patient enough…

It’s notable that basically all of the other youth players who took part in the various preseason bits and bobs have returned to the reserves or U18s by now but Singh has been involved in all these little camps and tours. One of the first things he did with BM2 was sing a little song in an initiation ceremony but video of that was cut off by the media team since he hadn’t technically been announced as a new signing at that point. But just in case you did want to hear his sugary tones then he’s now done the same damn thing with the first team, serenading the crew with a bit of the Biebs. Chur to the fella Jerome Boateng for this one…

It feels like so many things have broken in Sarpreet’s favour over the last few months, little slices of timing and fortune that through his own ability to rise to the occasion he’s been able to make the most of. A fresh one of those came this week as Bayern had been seriously involved in trying to bring German international Leroy Sane to the club only for the Man City forward to suffer a pretty awful knee injury in the Community Shield that’ll see him out of action for the rest of 2019. A top notch signing in his position that didn’t happen.

There’s still three more weeks for Bayern to bring in another winger and it’s likely that they will – even if they have to bring back Franck Ribery for one more swing, though the current rumours are for Ivan Perisic from Inter or perhaps a loan deal for Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho – but it really does look like Singh may spend a lot of time with the first team this season. Niko Kovac is a big fan. He played well in preseason. And oh hey look he was on the bus for their first DFB Pokal game against lower league Energie Cottbus (lower league meaning fourth tier in this example, so Cottbus are actually at a lower standard than Bayern 2 – they were relegated while BM2 were promoted)…

All of which bring us to that cup game and his best chance yet for a first team debut. Sarpreet Singh was named on the bench with a pretty strong side running out there, one which immediately took control of the game with Cottbus sitting back with two deep lines of four trying to soak it all up. And they did for a while. A nice blowout win might have meant more chance of seeing Singh yet it was just Robert Lewandowski’s 32nd minute goal that separated them at the half.

Singh was the first fella the cameras caught coming out for a half-time kick-around in his tracksuit but there were no changes at the break. It wasn’t until Kingsley Coman whacked one in from distance that Bayern had their comfort, despite having 81% of possession in this game. Coman was then replaced by Serge Gnabry on the left wing which pretty much ruled out Sarpreet’s hope of a debut (Leon Goretzka had already replaced Renato Sanches). It was those two subs who combined for a late third, Gnabry setting up Goretzka, before Bayern made their final change, giving a much awaited debut to… Lucas Hernandez. Their big dollar defensive signing of the summer who had been working his way back from injury. Cottbus scored a penalty with the last kick of the game for a 3-1 scoreline. Bayern advance. Singh was out there with the rest of the subs running shuttles after the final whistle. No debut yet… but if he hangs around with the first team then it’s only a matter of time. Next up is the start of the Bundesliga.

Up Next: Bayern vs Hertha on Saturday at 6.30am (NZT)

Jamie Searle – Aston Villa (English Premier League)

How about this one, aye? From the St Peter’s Cambridge to Aston Villa, 18-year-old kiwi keeper Jamie Searle initially turned up at the Villans – who are back in the top flight this season after winning promotion in a playoff last season – on a 10-day trial but he did well enough to have that extended out to a full month and that’s now turned into a permanent deal, signing a 12-month contract that’ll see him playing with the U23s there.

He’s already featured three times for that team in preseason, wearing the gloves against Redditch United, Stratford Town and Tamworth and apparently that Tamworth game was a right old blinder. He saved not one but two penalties and pulled out a few other belter saves along the way too. The Whakatane native had been playing for Melville a few months ago… now he’s on the books of a Premier League club. Although don’t expect him to be too near the first team picture any time soon (remember Villa just signed Chris Wood’s old mate Tom Heaton as goalie), nah this season is about consolidating his place in the U23s and getting a long-term deal in place. This one definitely came a little out of the blue and it’s a bloody good sign for kiwi footy when this kind of transfer is sneaking in under the radar. Congrats to Jamie and here’s to plenty more of these saves.

Up Next: Settling in

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

Well, they can’t all be good weeks. In front of a record crowd of more than 25,000 people in Portland, it was the Thorns who bounced back to winning ways against NC Courage with a 2-1 win and that would have been bad enough on its own but there was also the nature of that 82nd minute winning goal…

Yeah... so you probably want a little bit more out of your keeper in that situation, rather than a gentle bobble looping past her and into the goal, plus the whole move came from a frantic give away own the right side of defence… but bottom line is that’s an own goal winner from Abby Erceg which bumps Portland back up to the top of the table and drops NCC down to third again.

It’s frustrating because the Courage had been up 1-0 after only four minute thanks to a goal from World Cup winner Crystal Dunn… but from that point on it was really one of those days. Portland keeper Adrianna Franch made a whopping ten saves and amidst all that Portland went ahead and equalised in the 56th minute as a deep cross saw keeper Steph Labbe and midfielder Merritt Mathias collide going for the high ball and that high ball kinda fell into the net off them. It was credited as an own goal against the goalie. Add that to the own goal that won it near the end and goalkeeping really is the toughest gig in the game. The Courage played their usual game, they created an overwhelming number of chances, but their finishing wasn’t good enough and mistakes at the back cost them the points. One of those days.

In happier news, the Courage get to test themselves against Manchester City in that International Champions Cup thing later in the week. City are in preseason ahead of the next WSL campaign, the winner of that game will face the winner of Olympique Lyon and Atlético de Madrid – NCC won it last year but this time there’s a financial prize on the line.

Up Next: NCC vs Manchester City, International Champions Cup, Friday at 11.30am (NZT)

Michael Boxall – Minnesota United (American Major League Soccer)

The US Open Cup semi-final isn’t quite the big deal that cup competitions in other countries can be (sideline cup comps aren’t really the done thing in playoff-hungry USA) but for a team like Minnesota United it sure is as they scrap for what would be the franchise’s first ever trophy. Michael Boxall and the Loons came up against Bill Tuiloma and the Portland Timbers in this semi… but with no Bill Tuiloma playing (though he was back on the bench) there was no need for split allegiances.

These two had already played a few days earlier with Minnesota winning out 1-0. But despite the Sunday/Wednesday turnaround Minnesota made only three changes and all to their frontline. Portland were a little more sharing, with five changes including one at centreback though it was Claude Dielna who got the nod instead of sub Billy T, annoyingly.

This was a feisty old game. Two teams a little fatigued but not ready to give in and the challenges flew about as quickly as the whistles that followed them. That kind of game is not one that Boxall has any problems with, by the way. Fittingly it was a penalty that opened the scoring. It was actually Dielna who conceded it too, the ball copping an extended arm from a free kick and there wasn’t much choice for the ref. Funky story here, Darwin Quintero steps up to take it and Christian Paredes (of Portland) signals to the keeper to dive left since he used to play with Quintero back at Club America in Mexico and knows his tendency. But the Minnesota captain Osvaldo Alonso saw this and came running in to tell his spottie taker. Keeper Steve Clark dove left… but Quintero had adjusted his target and went to the GK’s right to score.

More drama for the equaliser before the half too. Mike Boxall had already nudged one header wide of the post on the end of a free kick, making his presence known. Maybe shoulda got that one on target too to be fair, he was pretty wide open. Boxall was also pretty involved in that leveller. He was the last defender to step up as the ball was fed through to Brian Fernandez. Whether he was onside or not, we only had the lino to trust as there was no VAR here. Play was allowed to continue and deep into stoppage time we were back at 1-1. Word is that the Minnesota coach unleashed on the refs in the sheds during HT over the non-call.

After some poor footy bookending that half-time break, the Loons regained their composure and began putting up a threat again. 64th minute and it was Mason Toye who slipped in behind the defence. Dielna didn’t have the pace to stay with him and Steve Clark wasn’t able to rush out in time to stop him and Toye whipped it in to make it 2-1. The Timbers made a few attacking subs as the game progressed, trying desperately to get back into it… but when a fluke rebound in time added on bounced back off the post with everyone stuck to the spot it was clear that it wasn’t to be. Minnesota advance to the final after a wild one. They’ll face Atlanta United in the final.

Twin Cities Pioneer Press: “Minnesota United veteran Michael Boxall takes a victory lap around the edge of Allianz Field after every win. The New Zealand defender does it to reciprocate appreciation from fans who have supported the club through two bad seasons. This summer, Boxall has done plenty of extra jogging and clapping as the Loons continue a stunning run in the U.S. Open Cup on top of strong play in MLS.”

That was a fair bit better than they did on the weekend against FC Dallas though. With all that fixture congestion there were nine changes to the starting team from the cup game, with Michael Boxall and keeper Vito Mannone the only two to retain their places. But the Loons looked every bit the disjointed side that rotation would suggest, despite taking an 11th minute lead thanks to Ethan Finlay. But then they conceded a flurry and went on to lose 5-3 so don’t worry about it. We could go into more detail but basically with another midweek game coming up and with the Dallas game splitting a nice run of home games… this was a scheduled loss. They weren’t bothered.

Also you may have seen the dude from Philadelphia Union (Alejandro Bedoya) who scored the other day and then ran over to the pitch mic to give a message to the UNA congress about ending gun violence? Mike Boxall had some thoughts too…

MB: “I think everyone in the league really stands behind him. Anyone who supports the league, any human being would have to stand behind his statements. What really rang home with me was in the press conference after when he was asked about it. When you think about – obviously me with my little girl and my wife – it’s really something that needs to be done. Especially back in New Zealand earlier this year when you have the massacre that happened, the terrorism that happened back in New Zealand. The reaction, the prime minister did react so quickly. I mean, it’s possible. When people just want to put other things to the side and focus on what’s important, then that’s when you see change. But it has happened far too often here.”

Up Next: Got old mates Colorado Rapids on Thursday at midday (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

Oh yes. He might not have gotten a run in the US Open Cup and it kinda seems like, given how slow the re-integration has been since he got fit again, that he might have to earn his starting spot back again… but in a rotated team against the woeful Vancouver Whitecaps he was one of five changes, marking his first appearance in over two months since he was injured having sat unused on the bench on four occasions in that time (as well as two starts for the ressies).

The game itself went pretty much as planned, as you might have guessed from that post-match presser. It was 1-1 at the break after Theo Blair cancelled out Seb Blanco’s strike but Marvin Loria put Portland back on top ten minutes into the second half and Jeremy Ebobisse finished it off right at the end. Not an easy win by any means but the Timbers were mostly in control and, really, with so many games in such a short space of time it was a by-any-means-necessary situation. That fixture congestion won’t end this week either so hopefully a few more gigs are on their way.

Up Next: Portland vs Chicago, Thursday at 3pm (NZT)

Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

Gotta be a nice feeling when you beat your old team 5-0 in a preseason game. Ali Riley played the full ninety at left back against a pretty much full-strength Chelsea, all her old mates, as Bayern scored goal after goal with Lineth Beerensteyn getting a hatty amongst it. This game for third place at the Women’s French Cup, with Bayern having lost 2-1 to PSG a couple days earlier (the photo for that Chelsea article is actually from the PSG game, you can tell by the jersey in the background) – with a full game for Ali Riley in that one too. All positive signs ahead of the new season with the Footy Ferns captain poised to be a first choice player for a team that’ll be in contention to win the Bundesliga as well as competing in the Champions League this upcoming season.

Up Next: Proper season kicks off away against Freiburg this Saturday at 11pm (NZT)

Betsy Hassett - KR Reykjavik (Icelandic Úrvalsdeild kvenna)

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The Perfect Pass!! #gameday

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It’s close enough at the bottom of the ladder in Iceland that things can change drastically over the course of a single weekend. Coming into their game away against IBV, KR were sitting second to last on 10 points and chilling in the relegation zone. Ninety minutes later they’d come away with a 4-2 win that launched them up ahead of their opponents and into sixth. They’re still as close to last as they are to fifth but coming off a pair of losses to nil and eight days out from the cup final this was a big ol’ result for Betsy Hassett’s lasses.

Hassett didn’t score any of the four, those goals were supplied by doubles for Guðmunda Brynja Óladóttir and Katrín Ómarsdóttir each, but she played another influential ninety minutes. KR took the lead almost immediately as they won a penalty after 44 seconds. IBV got a spottie of their own after half an hour to level it back up but then two quick goals on the break before half-time put KR well in control. They scored another after an hour and only conceded again in the last minute of regular time. Just what the doctor ordered.  

Up Next: Cup Final time! It’s Selfoss vs KR on Sunday at 5am (NZT)

Winston Reid – West Ham United (English Premier League)

There was no Winston Reid in the matchday squad as West Ham took on Manchester City in their Premier League opener. Not a surprise considering he was held out of their final three preseason games in order to manage his workload coming back after such a long absence. West Ham looked sharp in stages going forwards but were predictably no match for the two-time defending champions and even with Raheem Sterling scoring a hat-trick they still had VAR to thank for it not being worse. 5-0 was the final score, which leaves the Hammers last on the ladder albeit only after a single week of action.

Issa Diop and Fabian Balbuena are the first choice centre-backs so they were always going to start this one. For Reid it was a matter of whether he was considered as a bench option and the answer to that is: not yet. Angelo Ogbonna carried the CB duties on the bench and there wasn’t any need for a second specialist central defender. But Manuel Pellegrini had said in the lead up to the game that Mark Noble was the only injury absence in the squad so despite suspicions it’s not like Winnie was injured or anything. Just needs more time to prove himself after such a long spell on the sidelines. West Ham also completed the signing of 18-year-old Portuguese CB Gonçalo Cardoso in the late stages of the transfer window though he’s more likely to be one for the future.

Football.London: “Reid is taking part in group sessions when things like tactics are being worked on, defending set pieces and the like. However, when it comes to his fitness regime, the 31-year-old can sometimes be found working away from the main group. He is on a specific training plan and in order to control the load of training, will do so on his own with the medical team at Rush Green. For example, Reid trained on his own on Monday but will then be a part of the main session on Tuesday. There is no timetable for a return to first team action for Reid just yet. Much like Andriy Yarmolenko was left out of the squad for the loss to Manchester City on Saturday, the club is simply taking it carefully with their players who missed most or all of last season. The consensus at West Ham is that Reid is certainly heading in the right direction, but they and the player have just got to be patient.”

Anyway, here’s a whole lot more words on Winston’s situation…

Up Next: Away to Brighton at 2am on Sunday morning (NZT)

Andre De Jong – AmaZulu FC (South African Premier Soccer League)

ADJ: “It was an awesome experience, very disappointed by the result but for me personally it was an honour to debut for AmaZulu. The pace was good, I adjusted fairly well. It will take a bit of time but I thought I held my own. It is not overly physical, pretty similar to back in New Zealand but obviously the pace is different. I am loving life in Durban, getting settled in my apartment, still looking for a car but really enjoying a new city. The preseason was really good, the coaching staff and fellow players have helped me settle in and I really appreciate what they have done for me.”

A solid enough debut then for Andre De Jong, even if the result didn’t come with it, AmaZulu losing 3-0 to Bidvest Wits. This week they were away to Polowane City in a much more competitive game and when ADJ was subbed off in stoppage time it looked like a solid point on the road was heading their way with the game still scoreless. But of course football’s rarely that simple.

Polokwane had been the more aggressive side for most of the match yet were unable to turn that into a goal, while AmaZulu mostly got stuck in defence in that first half. However things opened up as the game progressed. ADJ cracked one towards the goal and that was saved which sparked them on, probably his best opportunity of the day. But yeah, right when it looked like a draw was inevitable Mohammed Anas got on the end of a cross to score a very late winner… third minute of stoppage time late.

There’s a bit of time to hit up the old drawing board now as AmaZulu don’t play again until next Wednesday. That one’s at home to Orlando Pirates so another tough one for a team that’s lost two from two to begin things, one of only three teams without a point in the opening fortnight. It’s been promising from ADJ who’s settling in nicely, having immediately emerged as a starting eleven player and he’s been creating a few chances too in that attacking midfield role. But gotta get those results trending the right way soon if they’re gonna avoid a pesky relegation battle.

Up Next: AmaZulu vs Orlando Pirates, Wednesday 21 August at 5.30am (NZT)

Dan Morgan – Maritzburg United (South African Premier Soccer League)

With four changes from their first game, it meant a debut for kiwi defender Dan Morgan at Maritzburg. He played as a left wing-back while his old Auckland City teammate Micah Lea’alafa also got a club debut off the bench later on. Neither was considered for the opener coming so soon after signing with the Team of Choice but another week of training, no dramas.

Maritzburg scored first after a speedy start to the second half, Kwanda Mngonyama giving them the lead with a deflected effort from the right side of the penalty area. Opponents Highlands, who had come close a couple times in the first half looking to exploit a high defensive line, but they were reduced to ten men when Luckyboy Mokoena (not so lucky this time, boy) got a second yellow.

Morgan had a couple chances along the way, whacking a volley off his right peg that went over the top, while he almost set one up with a free kick delivery. He wasn’t the only one either and not only did it take too long for them to finally score one but they also weren’t able to add a second when they should have and were punished right at the end as Peter Shalulile, who had a goal disallowed in the first half for offside, snatched a late equaliser. First point of the campaign for Maritzburg but they should really have won. Full game for Morgan, 23 minutes off the bench for Lea’alafa.

Up Next: Monday 26 August away to Stellenbosch at 1am (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

Whatever’s going on in Vittsjö, it’s working. This week they hosted Limhamn Bukeflo, a team with just one win in eleven coming into it, and they swiftly kept them at one with a comprehensive victory. Vittsjö were on top from the opening minutes until the final minutes. Plenty of chances created, the only surprise once the game kicked off was that it took half an hour before Tove Almqvist finally put them in front.

With the opportunity to really push forward from left-back, CJ Bott (still wearing that cast on her hand) was able to get nice and involved in the attack here, signified best by a lovely little disguised inside pass through the defensive line to set up Nellie Persson’s goal for 2-0. Bott cut inside and lashed one just over the bar early in the second half, before Clara Markstedt and a second for Almqvist concluded a 4-0 win for Vittsjö. A win that keeps them at the dizzying heights of second on the table after twelve games. Get at the highlights over here.

Up Next: Away to Piteå on Thursday at 5am (NZT)

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

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Waiting for gameday to finally come around! 🐌

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Gameday’s finally come around. And for Avaldsnes, who started the season so poorly with zero wins in their opening seven games, they’re just carrying on their merry way. Three games since the World Cup break ended, with a 2-1 win over Arna-Bjørnar beginning it, Anna Jøsendal with the 77th minute winner, followed by a 2-1 win over Klepp in the Norwegian Cup third round (that’s Klepp where Kirsty Yallop played for a few years and is currently on the coaching staff).

Then a 0-0 draw away to Stabæk which was easily the worst of the three performances, being unable to break through agains the bottom team on the table. But they did keep a clean sheet with a kiwi goalie and defender in place. Stott was a key player from the start for this club and is the only player to have played every minute of every league game so far. Esson meanwhile, she started on the bench but it was after she came in that they started figuring things out – losing only one of four league games that she’s played and that was her debut. Avaldsnes are in a position now where they can maybe make a climb up the table but either way they’ve put some breathing room between themselves and the relegation spots.

Up Next: Avaldsnes vs Klepp on Sunday at 1am (NZT)

Nik Tzanev – AFC Wimbledon (English League One)

Busy times for Nik Tzanev who is enjoying a brief spell as the number one for the Dons. He made his senior debut for the club against Rotherham last week and was back in to face Fleetwood this time. Not the best game for the lads however. Kwesi Appiah had given them the lead with Tzanev pretty comfortable in goal after 45 minutes but the Joey Barton managed Fleetwood had a resurgent second spell, scoring through Paddy Madden and Josh Morris to claim the points. 2-1 the final. Second straight defeat for the Dons to start the season… not the keeper’s fault at least.

Here he is talking about his debut last week…

Nik Tzanev: “There was talk of a loan but I think it would’ve been hard with our goalkeeper situation at the time – we had no-one to sit on the bench. Over pre-season the goalkeepers were getting half a game each – it was pretty equal. When a loan player comes in and that is the manager’s decision then it puts you at a disadvantage – but I applied myself and worked really hard during the off season so that I could take any opportunity. I knew on Friday that I was starting. I was really pleased. There were a few nerves leading up to it but I also knew I needed to relax in everything I did – like interacting with the crowd. They are the reason you have football, without them it wouldn’t be anything special. I wanted to clap them and also prove to them and the coaches that I merited my starting position. I thought I did well but I’ve got to take it game by game. I’m grateful for Wally having the trust to put me in.”

By the way, big ski fan this fella. In case you didn’t know…

Up Next: AFC Wimbledon vs MK Dons, the rivalry, in the first round of the Legaue Cup on Wednesday at 6.45am (NZT)

Steven Old – Morecambe (English League Two)

2-0 up after 21 minutes, going on to draw 2-2 against a team that had a man sent off near the end. At least the Shrimps didn’t lose. Steven Old has played full games in both their matches so far and his CB mate Sam Lavelle scored the opener in the latest game away to Mansfield. Also annoyingly the Football League clubs don’t seem to be uploading highlights of games any more (coincidentally as the Premier League have completely opened up on those things). So nothing much else to report on here other than that Oldie’s doing fine.

Up Next: Same opposition, different comp… Mansfield vs Morecambe at 6.45am on Weds in the League Cup first round (NZT)

Elijah Just & Dalton Wilkins - FC Helsingør (Danish Division 1)

Yeah that’s our lad Eli getting it done on debut. A debut off the bench in the team’s second league game, scoring the only goal in a 1-1 draw. Helsingør had also claimed a 1-0 win over Skovshoved in their first game (though AB knocked them out of the cup already) so it’s so far so good in their quest to get back up to the second division (where Nikko Boxall’s Viborg play – they drew 0-0 this week while one division up in the top flight Marco Rojas was an unused sub in another 0-0 draw).

Up Next: Helsingør vs Avarta on Saturday at 5am (NZT)

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