Flying Kiwis – September 10

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Ria Percival – Tottenham Hotspur (English Super League)

RP: “We’re new in the league obviously, so we want to find our feet, but we also want to show what we’re bringing to the table. For the girls from last season who have now come into this division, it’s going to be a massive step but for all of us and for me personally, you want to win every game – it doesn’t matter what team it’s against. It’s a massive game for us to start with – Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the first game of the season. They’re a big team from last season, it’s a big challenge for us but we’ve prepared well and now we’re just working through the final days of preparation before the game.

A game is a game – it’s winnable for any team on the day and if we show patches of what we did against West Ham last weekend against Chelsea, we’ll be in the game. The physical battle is a massive one but if we get in early and win that physical battle then we’ve got every chance. Chelsea are a great team and they’ve got many good players but you also look at our team and the players we’ve got. There are many threats in our team and we know each game can be won by any team on the day, so we’re all up for it.”

New season, new club, new colours for Ria Percival. Same city though, swapping the claret and blue of West Ham for the lilywhite of Tottenham Hotspur. And after playing right back for most of last season she was named in a prominent defensive midfield role for their Super League opener away against Chelsea at a well stacked Stamford Bridge. But the season could probably have started worse, to be fair. Three minutes gone and Percy was fed a hospital pass in her own half and wasn’t able to hold off Beth England from stealing it away. Percy being Percy she immediately scrapped to win that ball back but nobody quite expected England to caress that thing into the top corner from a mile out. Absolutely brilliant goal… though the giveaway didn’t help.

Jeez tough game to play defensive midfield too. Chelsea were without both Fran Kirby and Erin Cuthbert in their XI but were still looking sharp on attack and they kept Spurs pinned in their own half for the bulk of the first 45 minutes. On numerous occasions you could see a bit of frustration from Percival, either driving her teammates to lift or maybe venting a little at the ref. They managed to get into the break without any further damage, so there you go.

Spurs made a change at half-time and introduced Chloe Peplow to play alongside Percival in holding midfield and it seemed to do the trick as Rachel Furness found more space going forwards and was able to test the keeper on one occasion in particular. Which isn’t to say that Chelsea weren’t still on top, and it was crazy that they didn’t double the lead in a move where Drew Spence hit the crossbar from range and then with a header on the follow up Guro Reiten managed to hit the post too.

Ultimately the Blues were too good, too solid, for Spurs to really threaten anything on a consistent basis and the game started to feel like an inevitable 1-0. Somehow Chelsea wasted a flurry of chances late on as the game got frantic but the result wasn’t gonna change. 1-0 it ended. Which isn’t too bad an effort from Spurs considering half their squad are ex-amateurs promoted from the Championship last season and the other half are new signings. And after coughing up the ball for the goal you can rest assured that nobody dribbled away from Ria Percival again all game – if she didn’t make the tackle then she damn sure conceded the foul.

Up Next: Home vs Liverpool on Monday at 1am (NZT)

Ryan Thomas – PSV Eindhoven (Dutch Eredivisie)

That is some wholesome content right there. Ryan Thomas playing his first organised footy game for nearly 400 days and his first game in a PSV jersey as well. It’s been a long time coming.

Now, this was only a friendly game against German side FC Köln during the international week, and he only played the first half an hour before being replaced – but still a huge milestone on his way back to regaining the version of himself that he was before the injury. Can’t expect him to be pushing for Eredivisie games any time in the immediate future and clearly PSV will be cautious with him but he came through this step untroubled. Useful timing too since Thomas, being older than 24 years old, isn’t eligible to play for the academy team apparently so his rehab will rely on a few more of these kinds of contests… which aren’t uncommon in these Euro leagues to be fair. PSV won the game 1-0, by the way.

Also good news – and another indication that Thommo’s making good progress – is that he was included in PSV’s 25-man Europa League group stage squad. It’s a squad that like most Dutch sides has an enormous List B selection of youth players so it’s not like it’s much of a risk including a player not currently fit, plus these games might be a great opportunity to get him some minutes in a month or two. PSV have been drawn with Sporting CP, Rosenborg, and LASK in Group D.

Up Next: Sunday at 6.45am at home versus Vitesse (NZT)

Olivia Chance – Bristol City (English Super League)

Already had the scoops on this one last week but there’s a bit more fun for ya. The FA WSL got underway this weekend and while Chance was only a recent signing she still found herself on the bench for Bristol City as they hosted Brighton in front of a record crowd of more than 3000 people. The game ended 0-0 and will be best remembered for a wonderful penalty save late in the first half from BCFC keeper Sophie Baggaley… but here’s another low-key huge moment…

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Baggaley made a couple other important saves as Bristol City started their season kinda rusty, though the Robins grew into the game as it went on and were unlucky not to win it after a couple late cracks at goal. One was when Ebony Salmon came off the bench to curl one off the crossbar. Another fell to fellow sub and the whole point of this write-up Olivia Chance. Ten minutes left in the game and Chance picked up the ball on the edge of the area, skipping past one defender with her first touch, then beating another as she straightened up and charged into the area before unleashing one off her left foot that was tipped over the bar by the keeper. Nearly a dream debut but hopefully a sign of things to come.

The draw was probably a fair result and it’s definitely a point that BCFC are taking having had a little bit of a disjointed preseason with late signings (Chance wasn’t the only one, apparently as many of five players in this matchday squad have had less than two weeks training with the squad). Check out the highlights here – you’ll need an FA Player subscription but it’s free and they have all the live games non-geoblocked and frankly a lot of other sports leagues should be jealous.

Up Next: Everton vs Bristol City, Sunday at 11.30pm (NZT)

Sarpreet Singh - Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

With the transfer window closed and the first international break of the season imminent, there was one more thing to take care of for Bayern Munich before everyone buggered off to their various countries for Euro qualifiers (or just took a well-earned rest for a couple days) and that was the submitting of their Champions League squad. UEFA demands that those squads be of no more than 25 players, at least two of whom must be goalies and a minimum of eight must be homegrown (anyone who’s been at the club at least three years between the ages of 15-21). There’s also the List B selection of players for dudes under the age of 21 who have been with the club for two years.

Sarpreet Singh doesn’t qualify for any of those exemptions but with Bayern chilling with a relatively small squad it was always likely that he got the nod. Sure enough, there he is. All up they named 28 players which includes List As and List Bs, those 28 players being the only ones available to play in their group stage matches now – though they can made changes if they make the knockouts. So while it does make a nice headline that Sarpreet’s in the Champions League squad, it doesn’t really mean anything new. He was already on the fringes of that first team and has starred for the reserves in recent weeks. It would have been a shock if he wasn’t there.

Bayern have been drawn in Group B where they’ll face Tottenham Hotspur, Olympiacos, and Crvena Zvezda (aka Red Star Belgrade). Not an easy draw, that one, though Bayern are always favoured to go through regardless of who they draw. If Singh does get on the paddock for any of those games - and it’s probably a tad unlikely since he hasn’t even played a first team game officially yet – then he’d join a very small band of brothers to have played in the tournament proper. Qualifying, no dramas. Heaps of fellas have done that and Greg Draper makes it a yearly thing for TNS. But the actual UCL group stage? Just the two kiwi players: Danny Hay and Wynton Rufer.

Up Next: SG vs Bayern Munich II, Sunday at midnight (NZT)

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

The calendars needed changing recently and with the new September image on that [insert favourite footy team here] branded gift from last Christmas comes a Flying Kiwis tradition…

Did Abby Erceg make the NWSL Team of the Month? Answer: Yes, once again.

NWSL: “Abby Erceg, North Carolina Courage: The New Zealander has contributed to North Carolina’s 2nd place ranking in the league, with an 84% passing rate and 51 clearances for the season so far.”

Her third TOTM selection out of five months this season – remember she was away for the World Cup for a while there – and the seventh of her career which moves her into fourth all time since the award was inaugurated in the 2017 season. Sam Kerr, Casey Short (both 9), and Becky Sauerbrunn (8) are the only players ahead of her. Short was the only of that trio to make the August selection.

Back to the footy now and every game is a big game from here on out as NCC try to overhaul the Portland Thorns for top spot on the table and home advantage through the semis. Away to Sky Blue then and it could hardly have been a better start for the Courage. 49 seconds gone and they were in front with the fastest NWSL goal of the 2019 season so far but almost nobody celebrated as the weird nature of Erica Skroski’s looping own goal caught players and fans by surprise.

This was one of those rare occasions where the USA national team didn’t get in the way of the two Abby’s pairing up at CB for the Courage but after Erceg had made a defiant lunging challenge to try and deny a Sky Blue attack a few minutes earlier, Dahlkemper didn’t get away with her own effort as she kinda rugby tackled a striker which led to Carli Lloyd levelling things from the spot. Lloyd then hit the crossbar soon after and the Courage were barely clinging on.

But they survived. Then they held on ‘til the break. Then they brought the goods, Kristen Hamilton with some incredible work to set up Crystal Dunn in the 57th minute for what proved to be the winner. Much more like themselves in that second half, dominating the ball and getting plenty of shots away. 2-1 was the final score. Suddenly the Courage are just two points behind the Thorns with two games in hand.

Up Next: Double header with a huuuuuge game away to Portland on Thursday at 2.30pm before they host Orlando on Sunday at 11am (NZT)

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

Jeremy Brockie: “It’s very exciting to be here. It is no secret that it’s been a long waiting months since I joined Sundowns. I am always going around with a smile whether I am experiencing a good time or going through a tough time. But the smile is a lot bigger now that I know I am going to be playing some consistent football and just getting back to doing what I love. I am grateful for the opportunity to join Maritzburg. The president of Sundowns played a big role in letting me here on loan. I am looking forward to it.”

Up Next: Mamelodi Sundowns vs Maritzburg United, 4am on Sunday 22 September (NZT)

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

It was an extremely weird game as the Reign hosted Orlando Pride. The fact that Seattle finally welcomed Megan Rapinoe back as a late sub for what were – incredibly – her first 18 minutes of NWSL footy this year was a big deal for a team whose top scorer race is a three-way tie with three goals each. Yeah, Rosie White’s only played seven games and most of them in midfield and she’s one goal off top there. But most important of all was that they got the three points and kept their quest for the semis going good.

Rosie White started in midfield and played 84 minutes before she was subbed out of there, an extremely long 84 minutes as it happened thanks to that old American favourite ‘weather delay’. There was lightning in the area mid first half which caused a break of more than two hours starting in the 23rd minute (hence the weirdness). Luckily for Seattle, by that time they’d already thoroughly dominated the game with a 3-0 lead to sit on while they waited for conditions to clear. Two of those three goals came from pressing the Orlando defence and winning the ball in dangerous areas, with Darian Jenkins scoring two and Beverley Yanez the other.

Hilariously they credited the assist for that third goal to Rosie White who had done her usual thing of making that slick late run into the penalty area from midfield but mistimed her shot when the ball was cut back. Got on her a tad too fast, it looked like. Anyway she shanked it straight to a teammate behind her and Yanez did the rest. First assist since signing for Seattle there, to go with those two goals for Rosie White. Orlando pulled a goal back after they finally resumed the game, Camila scoring from the penalty spot.

Seattle stay fifth thanks to results elsewhere but they’re within two points of Chicago with a game in hand and with five of their own games remaining, they can deal a big blow to sixth placed Washington next week when they play that lot.

Up Next: Sunday at 11.30am away to Washington Spirit (NZT)

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

And the result that kept Seattle down in fifth was another of those trademark 1-0 Utah Royals wins. Who did they beat? Only the top of the table Portland Thorns, that’s who. A massive win that helps Abby Erceg’s NC Courage as much as it helps the Royals.

Becky Sauerbrunn scored the only goal in the 36th minute with a powerful header from a Christen Press cross and there you go. But the Thorns aren’t top for no reason and it took a pretty defiant effort from Katie Bowen and the Royals defence to hold on there… though their task got easier in the 77th minute when Emily Sonnett got a red one for dragging down Amy Rodriguez (who was not happy about it) on the counter attack. There was also some quite unsavoury stuff with allegations of racial abuse towards players from the crowd but no need to give the idiots any extra focus, the NWSL is not a league that’d sweep such things under the rug.

A full game for Bowen at right back by the way. A pretty typical one too where she battled away defensively and continually made those forward runs in support, swinging in a few crosses in the process. This win makes it four wins and a draw from their previous five games although with three games left against top five teams (including both Rosie White’s Seattle and Abby Erceg’s NCC) there’s still a long way to go to earn that playoff spot.

RSL Soapbox Player Ratings: “Katie Bowen - 7: Similarly to Corsie, it wasn’t a bad game from her by any means. Defensively, her work was solid, just maybe could have been a little cleaner. Why she’s a little higher is her crosses into the box were a big part of the first half attack and created lots of chances.”

Up Next: Houston Dash vs Utah Royals, Saturday at 12.30pm (NZT)

Ali Riley – Bayern Munich (German Bundesliga)

It was Eintracht Frankfurt in the second round of the DFB Pokal and it was a smooth and comfortable victory, Bayern scoring five unanswered goals and they were up 2-0 after just ten minutes. It was also the first time that Ali Riley had played ninety minutes for her new club, playing the whole damn thing at right back like a champ. A little unfamiliar as a left-footer but you get in where you fit in. As such a few of her highlights weren’t too flattering on the defensive end of things… however she did hit the frame of the goal late on. Looked like a cross but it almost led to her first Bayern goal. Gotcha some highlights right here.

Elsewhere in Germany, Paige Satchell was an unused sub for SC Sand in their 2-0 Cup win over Ingolstadt – with Ricarda Schaber scoring both goals, one in each half. Satchell played three minutes off the bench against Wolfsburg in the opening game of the season and was also on the bench in a 3-0 win over SGS Essen in their other match. Working her way in there on that first professional contract.

Up Next: Quick trip back to Sweden to play Göteborg away at 4.45am on Thursday in the Champions League Round of 16 (NZT)

Erin Nayler – Girondins Bordeaux (French Division 1 Féminine)

This is shaping up to be an extremely exciting season for Bordeaux. New signing Bunny Shaw has settled in fantastically alongside French forward Viv Asseyi and after opening things with a 4-1 win over Fleury they came back from the international break to pick up where they left off with another three goal win, this time beating Dijon 3-0 with two more goals to Khadija Shaw and one for Duleymata Sarr. Which also means that precious clean sheet for the Footy Ferns keeper too.

Bordeaux are one of four teams that have won their first two games of the season and while it’s enormously unlikely they can keep pace with Lyon and PSG, they can at least close the gap maybe. Bordeaux finished fourth with 34 points last time – 23 points behind second place and 28 behind first. They already look a significantly improved side though and they can prove it next week against Montpellier who beat them to third (aka best of the rest last season).

Erin Nayler: “We are very happy because we have a good match and get the clean-sheet. We do not concede many opportunities, it's positive. In the second half, we managed to gain the upper hand physically over Dijon.”

Up Next: Bordeaux vs Montpellier, 12.30am on Sunday (NZT)

Bill Tuiloma – Portland Timbers (American Major League Soccer)

With eight minutes left the Portland Timbers were trailing 1-0 to Sporting Kansas City. They’d had a penalty awarded and then chalked off by VAR early on in things and they also had old mate Brian ‘Goal Machine’ Fernandez starting on the bench and things just weren’t quite clicking. But for the most part at least Bill Tuiloma and his brothers at the back were looking comfortable enough… until the 65th minute when Benny Feilhaber fluked a cross right into the top corner. Nothing anyone could do about it either which is the worst part.

But it did prove to wake the Timbers lads up and suddenly, facing a defeat they can’t really afford in the race for the playoffs, they started laying down a threat finally. Claude Dielna flicked a header off the post. Tuiloma had a header saved by the goalie. Then SKC hit the post themselves with a shot that might have copped a handy deflection off Tuiloma’s leg, though inconclusive on the replays (it was definitely tipped by the keeper). The Timbers then got the goal they were looking for from Jeremy Ebobisse with a simple tap-in after Diego Chara’s square ball had deflected nicely for him. Then, with the game on the brink of ending in a draw, Diego Valeri chipped one up to the far post where who else but substitute Brian Fernandez was hovering to score the winner in the fourth minute of injury time. He’d been on a little goal drought after a record breaking start to his MLS career but a goal like this should take care of that.

Incredibly there are just four points between second and eighth in the MLS Western Conference at the moment and only two points between fourth and eighth. The Timbers are smack bang in the middle of that in sixth with the top seven teams making the playoffs. They needed this win badly.

Up Next: Portland vs DC United, Monday at 7.30am (NZT)

CJ Bott – Vittsjö GIK (Swedish Damallsvenskan)

Sometimes a goal is all it takes, even when you’re facing the bottom team on the ladder who have only won once all season. But Clara Markstedt’s second half strike was all Vittsjö needed to take down Kungsbacka this week. Ninety minutes and a clean sheet for CJ Bott too. She nearly set up a goal ten minutes into it for Markstedt but a lovely dropped cross from left back was completely miss-hit on the volley, oh well. Once they did take the lead they never looked back, and a little more backspin on Summer Green’s shot off the crossbar and she might have doubled the lead with a Geoff Hurst special. No need though, sometimes one goal is all it takes. Highlights available here.

Vittsjö just keep on grinding out these results and with Goteborg failing to win this week – losing 2-1 to Eskilstuna United – it means that a club which the last two years has been scrapping to avoid relegation is currently sitting in second place with six games remaining and second place just happens to include Champions League qualification so yeah there’s a lot to play for over the next month and a half.

Up Next: Sunday at 11pm vs KIF Örebro (NZT)

Betsy Hassett - KR Reykjavik (Icelandic Úrvalsdeild kvenna)

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With another important win, this time a 4-0 triumph over fourth placed Þór/KA, ol’ KR have now put nine points between them and the relegation zone and are formally assured of a place in the top flight again next season – having won three of their last four games after winning just three of their first 12. A 4-0 win’s pretty comprehensive then… did Betsy Hassett score? Mate, do you even need to ask? She got the fourth and final strike to put the icing on the cake.

It was a closer game than the scoreline suggested in fairness and Þór/KA had a number of chances in a back and forth first half. But Gloria Douglas was the one who made it count with the early goal before Gudmunda Brynja doubled the lead just before the break, a huge time to score. Douglas then made it three in the 64th minute with Betsy Hassett setting that one up with a fine pass before Hassett scored her own one a couple minutes later, capping another influential game from the Ferns creative midfielder.

Up Next: Just two more games remaining this season, the next at home to Selfoss on Monday at 2am (NZT)

George Stanger - Hamilton Academical (Scottish Premiership)

Erm, okay then. A little while ago he was being linked with Leeds United and then two weeks ago he made his first team debut for the Accies (admittedly amongst an injury crisis) but now George Stanger, current NZ U20 international, has ended up on loan for East Kilbride in the non-league Scottish stuff which is a bit of a jarring step down to be honest. Stanger made his senior debut for fourth tier Stirling Albion a couple years ago and this is a level below that.

However it will at least mean regular first team football for a player who wasn’t considered part of the first team plans at the Accies this season. Plus it’s only until January so he could come back and fight for a spot with his parent club over the last five months of the season.

Hamilton Accies: “George Stanger has joined Scottish Lowland League side East Kilbride on a short-term loan. The 19 year old will play his football for fellow South Lanarkshire side East Kilbride until January 2020. Stanger played for New Zealand u20s in the recent FIFA u20 World Cup in Poland and has since been called up for the u23s Olympic squad. George was part of our UEFA Youth League squad from last season that knocked out Basel and then faced Danish side Midtjylland. The defender said: “I’m looking forward to getting game time under my belt and playing with the New Zealand squad soon as well. It’s very competitive football that’s played in the Lowland League so I’m relishing the challenge.” The transfer went through on 30th August.”

Up Next: Wee fella’s currently with the U23s squad that just wrapped up a couple games in Oz

Ellis Hare-Reid - Ayr United (Scottish Championship)

Speaking of the fitbaw corner of Flying Kiwis… Ellis Hare-Reid ticked one off the bucket list this weekend as he debuted for the Ayr United first team in a Scottish Challenge Cup game away to Wrexham. He got his money’s worth too as the game went all the way to penalties, though he wasn’t able to be the big hero with Wrexham progressing with a 6-5 shootout victory after a 1-1 draw after ninety minutes. Every penalty was scored by both teams until Luke McCowan missed with Ayr’s sixth attempt and although EHR got a hand on the last spottie he couldn’t keep it out. Ayr had equalised in the 86th minute through Sam Roscoe after Jake Bickerstaff had scored for the hosts in the 70th minute.

Ayr were missing some players to Scottish U21 duty and chuck in a few more injuries and they only had 14 fit players to choose from – just three lads on the bench… and one was a goalkeeper, who obviously didn’t get used with the kiwi fella in the way. But don’t let the availability crisis fool you because they’ve got big plans for EHR at Ayr… here’s the gaffer speaking a couple weeks back…

Manager Ian McCall: “Ellis Hare-Reid has been superb in training for some time now and he is very much in our sights as our number 1 for next season so there is no question he deserves a chance.”

Hare-Reid signed a new deal in the offseason and has been a regular for the club’s reserves in recent times. He was also involved in training camps for the New Zealand U20s last season yet he didn’t make the final World Cup squad.

Up Next: Ayr vs Dundee, Sunday at 2am (NZT)

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