Heartbreak for pair as Wood secures golden boot

The All Whites duo taking part in the biggest match on Australian football’s calendar have suffered heartbreak but Chris Wood has secured the golden boot in the English second tier while the United States-based Football Ferns continue to make their mark in the opening weeks of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season.

Marco Rojas and Jai Ingham both entered the A-League grand final with high hopes of lifting the trophy and appeared to have a great chance of doing so after Besart Berisha put Melbourne Victory 1-0 up with a wonderful solo goal in the first half. But Sydney FC hit back through Rhyan Grant with just over 20 minutes remaining and there was no further scoring in extra-time, leaving the destination of the silverware to be decided from the penalty spot. With the Victory trailing 3-2, the pressure was on Rojas to slot his effort but fellow former Wellington Phoenix player Danny Vukovic produced an outstanding save to deny the ‘Kiwi Messi’ and allow Sydney to finally win it through Milos Ninkovic. Ingham had earlier come off the bench in the first period of extra-time but was not called on to take a penalty.

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From a team point of view, Wood’s season with Leeds United has also ended in disappointment with the Yorkshire club narrowly missing out on a place in the Championship play-offs. But the All Whites striker was at least able to wrap up on a personal high in the final game of the season, striking from the spot in a 1-1 draw with Wigan Athletic to finish on 27 goals – four more than any other player in the division. His total tally in all competitions was 30 and only five other players have ever hit that milestone in a season for Leeds, including the legendary John Charles and Peter Lorimer. Remarkably, he has scored nearly half of the team’s 61 Championship goals and his last of the season was also the 100th of his professional career. Wood will now look to take that prolific form into next month’s FIFA Confederations Cup with the All Whites.

Elsewhere in the Championship, Tommy Smith was again not required as Ipswich Town finished off their campaign on a low note with a 3-0 loss at Nottingham Forrest but there was some great news for club mate Monty Patterson, who is set for an extended stay at Ipswich after being offered new terms on his current contract. In the top flight, Winston Reid may well have had a big say in the outcome of the Premier League title race after helping West Ham United to a 1-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur. Reid, who was booked in the 38th minute, has made a big impact since returning from injury, helping West Ham to three consecutive clean sheets. Outside of first-team football in England, a pair of Kiwis featured for the Sunderland U-23 team with goalkeeper Michael Woud – who is usually between the sticks for the club’s U-18 side – making his debut at the next level in a 3-2 loss to Reading while Sam Brotherton was again an unused substitute. In Sunderland’s final Premier League 2 fixture of the season, Woud came on in just the 18th minute as an injury replacement for James Talbot but was left disappointed after conceding a penalty and two further goals. He will hope for better when he lines up for his country at the FIFA U-20 World Cup this month in Korea Republic.

A fellow young Kiwi goalkeeper is also progressing well in his burgeoning career with Nik Tzanev signing a contract at League One outfit AFC Wimbledon. The former Brentford stopper was a member of the New Zealand squad for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup and had been playing in the development side at Wimbledon on a short-term deal, impressing with a string of fine performances that led to a call-up to the match day squad for the Dons’ final home game of the season against Oldham Athletic. Wimbledon already has links to New Zealand with both Shane Smeltz and Football Ferns coach Tony Readings having worn the blue and yellow. In League Two, Max Crocombe continues to play a supporting role as back-up goalkeeper at Carlisle United and was an unused substitute once more as the Cumbrians defeated Exeter City 3-2, pulling off a dramatic second-half fightback to seal a play-off place.

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In the women’s game in England, Anna Green was involved in a five-goal thriller as Reading were beaten 3-2 by FA Women’s Super League champions Manchester City in the top flight of the Spring Series. Green has been an ever present so far for Reading, starring as the left-sided centre back in a defensive three, and has been kept busy with three games in just eight days. She is certainly living the dream with those other two matches also against a couple of the biggest names in world football – Liverpool and Chelsea. In the second division of the Spring Series, Olivia Chance took up a place on the bench as Everton hosted Durham in a top-of-the-table clash. The Toffees emerged triumphant in the battle of the title contenders with a tight 1-0 win and Chance was the first substitute to be called on, entering the fray in the 66th minute and later teeing up a chance for captain Michelle Hinnigan.

In mainland Europe, Ryan Thomas will again star in the top division of the Dutch game next season after helping PEC Zwolle to a 2-1 win over SC Heerenveen – a vital three points that secured their place in the Eredivisie. Avoiding relegation is a fitting farewell for manager Ron Jans, who is set to be succeeded by former Melbourne City coach John van ‘t Schip. Thomas and co will sign off for the season against one of the giants of the world game when Zwolle visit PSV Eindhoven on Sunday. Football Fern Betsy Hassett meanwhile has business to attend to at the other end of the table after Ajax took a big stride towards the women’s title in Holland with a 1-1 draw against defending champions FC Twente. The midfielder has largely been used off the bench lately and came on in the 70th minute. Ajax are now five points ahead on the play-off table with only three matches to go. Staying in the Netherlands, Tamati Williams helped RKC Waalwijk into the second-tier Jupiler League play-offs over the weekend with several smart saves in a 1-1 draw with MVV Maastricht. They have not made a good start in their promotion bid though, falling 5-1 to FC Emmen in their first play-off match yesterday.

In Germany, All Whites number one Stefan Marinovic took full part in goal as SpVgg Unterhaching drew 2-2 with the second-string side of Bundesliga club FC Ingolstadt 04 in the fourth-tier Regionalliga while Football Ferns striker Amber Hearn helped FF USV Jena to a 4-1 win over SGS Essen in the Frauen Bundesliga. Several Kiwis are coming to the fore in Sweden, where Ali Riley helped FC Rosengard sweep aside Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC 5-0 while Hannah Wilkinson also played 90 minutes as Vittsjo GIK fell 3-2 to IF Limhamn Bunkeflo. Away from the female Damallsvenskan, a pair of New Zealanders also came together in the men’s Superettan, the second level of the Swedish system. Seven-cap All White Dan Keat scored a screaming half volley from a few yards outside the box as GAIS posted a 2-1 win over IFK Varnamo, for whom Tyler Lissette also went in the notebook with a booking just before half-time. In the Norwegian Toppserien, Kirsty Yallop pulled the strings as Klepp put five unanswered goals past Medkila – which included a four-strike haul from Australian Tameka Butt – while All Whites defender Themi Tzimopoulos has returned to training with Greek SuperLeague side PAS Giannina after recovering from injury.

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Across the Atlantic, Kip Colvey came up against Phoenix Rising and could have faced one of the modern game’s greats as Chelsea legend Didier Drogba owns the franchise. Drogba did not take the field but Colvey did well to keep a clean sheet in Reno 1868’S 4-0 win regardless as another player of high pedigree did feature in the opposing side – former Manchester City, Chelsea and England star Shaun Wright-Phillips. Elsewhere in the United Soccer League (USL), Deklan Wynne lined up at left back for Vancouver Whitecaps 2 in a 3-1 loss to Swope Park Rangers while Chris James has been ruled up for up to 10 weeks with the Colorado Springs Switchbacks due to injury. Wynne’s Whitecaps team mate Francis De Vries is also currently out of action but, with an injury crisis decimating the defensive stocks of the club’s Major League Soccer (MLS) team, is under consideration for a step up to the next level when he returns to full fitness. Already well established in the MLS is Jake Gleeson but the big goalkeeper was an unused substitute in the Portland Timbers’ 3-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes after only recently coming back from injury.

In the female game in America, a pair of Kiwis were involved in a top-of-the-table NWSL clash with Abby Erceg getting one over former Football Ferns team mate Rosie White as North Carolina Courage defeated the Boston Breakers 1-0. Erceg had a hand in the game’s only goal – her header rebounding out for Jessica McDonald to prod home – while White was not able to get the Breakers off the mark and was replaced just past the hour. Elsewhere, a strike from Brazilian legend Marta denied Katie Bowen’s FC Kansas City a victory as they drew 1-1 with Orlando Pride – Bowen starting but going off in the 64th minute – while Rebekah Stott earned her first start for Seattle Reign in a 2-2 draw with Portland Thorns.

In South Africa, Jeremy Brockie caused a stir on social media by smashing a stunning volley into the top corner from an acute angle – which was voted goal of the week by the biggest football publication in Africa – to help SuperSport United beat Polokwane City 3-2 in the Absa Premiership. Michael Boxall also took full part in the win and the pair were in action again earlier today, Brockie finding the net once more in a 4-2 win over Cape Town City. In Indonesia, Shane Smeltz did not manage to get on the scoresheet but had a team success to celebrate nonetheless as Borneo edged out Semen Padang to secure seventh place on the Liga 1 ladder.

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