Championship titles for Kiwi pair

A pair of Kiwi women have become champions of their respective leagues while the thoughts of many overseas-based All Whites are beginning to turn to next month’s FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia.

After being on the brink of the title for a couple of weeks, Betsy Hassett’s Ajax finally took the final step towards claiming the Dutch Eredivisie with a 2-1 win over ADO Den Haag. The Football Ferns midfielder came off the bench for the last 15 minutes as Ajax made history by earning the first national women’s title in the club’s history. As well as establishing themselves as the best side in the country, the triumph also means Hassett will follow in the footsteps of Ferns captain Ali Riley by appearing in the UEFA Women’s Champions League next season.

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Also lifting some silverware was Olivia Chance as Everton secured the FA WSL Spring Series second-tier title in style with a 4-0 outclassing of the London Bees. Chance got in on the act as a 79th-minute substitute and by that stage the game was all but won with the Toffees holding a 3-0 lead. Chance and co were fully deserving of their success after posting an impressive record of seven wins and one draw from their nine matches and will look to take that good form into the full WSL season, which kicks off in September. The Everton squad dedicated the title win to former team mate Zoe Tynan who would have turned 19 the same day but tragically passed away last November.

Fellow England-based Kiwi Sam Brotherton was likewise in line for a trophy but suffered disappointment as the Sunderland U-23 team was crushed by a Porto masterclass in the final of the Premier League International Cup. Over 18,000 Sunderland fans flocked to the Stadium of Light but had little to cheer about and it was a similar situation for All Whites defender Brotherton, who could only look on as an unused substitute. Max Crocombe was in the same boat as reserve goalkeeper for Carlisle United’s extraordinary 6-5 aggregate loss to Exeter City in the League Two play-off semi-finals and, with Winston Reid missing the English Premier League’s final round over the weekend due to a knee operation, there are now no male New Zealanders still in action this season in the English professional game. Most other leagues in Europe are also in the midst of wrapping up, leaving the likes of Chris Wood, Tommy Smith, Monty Patterson, Ryan Thomas and Tamati Williams to focus on the upcoming FIFA Confederations Cup.

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Football Ferns defender Anna Green is still very much in the thick of the action at Reading though and helped the Royals climb to fifth in the top flight of the FA WSL Spring Series with a 1-0 win over Yeovil Town. Green had been playing as part of a back three but was pushed further forward into the left wing-back role and proved a real attacking threat, peppering the Yeovil box with several crosses before being substituted on the hour. The win ended a three-match losing streak for Reading and they will look to pick up maximum points in their three remaining games to finish among the top places.

Also with a significant victory to celebrate was United States-based All Whites fullback Kip Colvey, who helped Reno 1868 to the first home victory in the club’s brief United Soccer League (USL) history. Colvey remains on the books of the San Jose Earthquakes but is being loaned out on a regular basis to Reno – an affiliate outfit of the Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise – and played the full 90 minutes of a 6-0 success over Seattle Sounders 2, Jamaican striker Dane Kelly scoring his second successive hat-trick. Elsewhere in the USL, Deklan Wynne’s strong performances for the Vancouver Whitecaps second-string have not gone unnoticed with the fullback signing a short-term agreement with the club’s MLS first team and earning a call-up to a 23-man roster for the Canadian Championship semi-final first leg against Montreal Impact tonight. In the MLS, it wasn’t a good day at the office for Jake Gleeson and his Portland Timbers team mates, who were reduced to 10 men against Montreal and eventually succumbed 4-1. Despite having to pick the ball out of his net on four occasions, the big Kiwi did shine at times, making good saves low to his right in the 33rd and 56th minutes to keep the scoreline respectable.

In the female game in America, there was a milestone moment for Rosie White as the Football Ferns star scored her first ever goal in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). White netted with a well-placed header from a Natasha Dowie cross just after half-time as the Boston Breakers drew 2-2 with the Portland Thorns. With former Football Ferns captain Abby Erceg serving a suspension as the table-topping North Carolina Courage were upset 3-1 by the Chicago Red Stars, the only other Kiwis in NWSL action were Katie Bowen and Rebekah Stott. After recently breaking into the Seattle Reign starting line-up, defender Stott again took full part in a 1-1 draw with the Orlando Pride, whose goal was scored by Brazilian superstar Marta. Stott had been playing in a defensive trio but was moved out to right fullback as the Reign switched to a back four. Bowen was able to go one better with FC Kansas City, who earned their first win on the road by defeating Washington Spirit 1-0, but had to make do with 20 minutes as a second-half substitute.

A host of Football Ferns have also been in action across Europe with Ria Percival helping FC Basel to a 2-2 draw against Lugano in Switzerland while Amber Hearn’s USV Jena posted the same scoreline against VfL Wolfsburg in the Frauen Bundesliga, the striker picking up a booking on the hour. In Sweden, Hannah Wilkinson started the match and played for over an hour as Vittsjo GIK fell 2-1 to Pitea IF but Ali Riley had more success with a 90-minute showing in FC Rosengard’s 3-0 outclassing of Linkopings. Kirsty Yallop also had a win to toast in the Norwegian Toppserien, in which Klepp IL swept aside Valerenga 2-0 with the Ferns veteran playing the entire match in midfield.

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Of the few All Whites still in action in Europe, goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic – who is likely to continue as first choice between the sticks at the Confederations Cup – kept a clean sheet as SpVgg Unterhaching beat TSV 1860 II 3-0 in the German Regionalliga while Bill Tuiloma got another 90 minutes under his belt for the Olympique de Marseille reserves in a 3-1 loss to Frejus Saint-Raphael. Outside of the All Whites group, there were several New Zealanders taking the field in the Swedish Superettan, including two in one game as ex-internationals Dan Keat and Steven Old both featured for GAIS in a 7-1 thumping at the hands of Varbergs BoIS. Midfielder Keat started the match but was replaced in the 61st minute while defender Old entered the fray just after half-time. Elsewhere in the Superettan, Tyler Lissette took full part as IFK Varnamo suffered successive losses, 3-1 to Dalkurd and 2-1 against Norrby IF. Over in Portugal, Tyler Boyd played 76 minutes for the reserves side of Primeira Liga outfit Vitoria SC in a 3-2 win over Benfica.

In South Africa, Michael Boxall and Jeremy Brockie now have a Nedbank Cup final to look forward to after helping SuperSport United to a semi-final win over Chippa United. The sides battled to a scoreless stalemate before the Matsatsantsa eventually prevailed 4-2 on penalties. Neither Kiwi took a spot kick but both more than played their part after 120 minutes of energy-sapping effort, including several chances to score for Brockie. SuperSport, who are four-time winners of the Nedbank Cup and current defending champions, will now take on the Orlando Pirates on June 24 in the final and have the advantage of playing at home. In Indonesia, Shane Smeltz came up against one of the greats of the modern game as Borneo earned a 2-2 draw against Persib Bandung, whose ranks include Michael Essien. Neither Smeltz nor the former Chelsea and Real Madrid midfielder could get on the scoresheet in front of a near 26,000 crowd, Essien spurning a golden opportunity to do so when he ballooned a penalty kick over the bar with 20 minutes remaining.

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