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Kiwis Abroad: Wood starts on winning note

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Below is an update of how some of New Zealand’s overseas-based professional footballers have performed in recent days.

Wood starts on winning note

Striker Chris Wood has enjoyed a winning start to the new Premier League season, playing 90 minutes as Burnley accounted for Southampton 3-0 at Turf Moor.

It was Burnley’s biggest opening day victory since 1966 and was secured with three goals in 12 second-half minutes.

Wood nearly got on the scoresheet early on but his strike was ruled out for offside on review by the video assistant referee system, which is being used in the Premier League this season for the first time.

"It’s a nice start for us," Burnley manager Sean Dyche said. "The mentality and energy, the will and desire was all there. The lads have come in really bright this season."

Elsewhere in the Premier League, Winston Reid’s West Ham United are still looking to get off the mark after being humbled 5-0 by Manchester City.

Reid has recently returned from injury and was not involved in the match day squad but will look to force his way into the plans of manager Manuel Pellegrini over the coming weeks.

Tzanev earns starting berth

Young goalkeeper Nik Tzanev has been making his mark at AFC Wimbledon, being hailed for an impressive Football League debut before keeping his place in the line-up for the subsequent match.

Unfortunately for the Dons, both matches resulted in 2-1 losses - to Rotherham United and Fleetwood Town respectively - but Tzanev can be proud of his personal contribution.

The 22-year-old was a late call-up for the home opener against Rotherham in League One and manager Wally Downes was delighted with his performance.

"I thought Nik was terrific," he said.

"He came in and was commanding. He made a great save early on and a good save towards the end. His kicking was terrific and I was really pleased for the boy."

Tzanev then kept his place for a grudge match against arch rivals MK Dons in the Carabao Cup but his team suffered heartbreak at the end of a fiercely-fought encounter, drawing 2-2 before being knocked out on penalties.

In League Two, Clayton Lewis is yet to feature for Scunthorpe - bottom of the table after losing their opening two matches - while Steven Old has played 90 minutes in both of Morecambe’s league fixtures, which have yielded just one point.

Former All White Old made a big impact in the Carabao Cup this morning though, scoring twice with a pair of headers as Morecambe drew 2-2 with Mansfield before triumphing on penalties. He was also made to work hard at the other end as the Shrimps were forced to play much of the match with only ten men after a sending off midway through the first half.

Percival settles in at Spurs

Football Ferns centurion Ria Percival has been settling into life at new club Tottenham Hotspur as the FA Women’s Super League kick-off rapidly approaches.

Percival moved across London from West Ham United to join Spurs, who are preparing for their first season as a top-flight, fully professional outfit.

The versatile defensive player was most recently in the starting line-up for a comfortable 7-0 friendly victory over Crystal Palace and is now in Spain, where Spurs are taking part in a pre-season tournament. Percival and her team mates will take on Real Betis in the semi-finals of the Ramon de Carranza Trophy today.

Tottenham will begin their Super League campaign on 8 September away at Chelsea, whom Football Ferns captain Ali Riley recently left to join Bayern Munich. Riley has just come up against her former club in a pre-season fixture, playing the full match at left back as Bayern defeated Chelsea 5-0.

Striker Katie Rood is meanwhile nearing the end of her pre-season with Lewes FC, who will take on Blackburn Rovers in their second-tier FA Women’s Championship opener this Sunday.

Singh waits for Bayern debut

Sarpreet Singh has made a dream start to his career at Bayern Munich, training with the first team squad since his arrival from the Wellington Phoenix last month and making six appearances during Bayern’s pre-season campaign.

But he is now having to bide his time to make his competitive debut for the German giants and looked on as an unused substitute in a 3-1 win over Energie Cottbus in the opening round of the German Cup yesterday.

He will be aiming to be involved in Bayern’s first match of the Bundesliga season against Hertha Berlin this weekend and will hope the recent quotes of coach Niko Kovač bode well.

"Singh is someone who was originally planned for the second team but what he showed in America and in the two games at the Audi Cup in Munich shows that he is a lot further along than some of the other players in the second team," Kovač said earlier this month.

"So without a doubt he will get the opportunities. It depends on his further progress to play in the first team but I’m very happy with him, I’m positively surprised and happy about his development."

The midfielder has already found the net in Bayern colours, slotting a penalty in a shoot-out defeat against Tottenham Hotspur before scoring from open play in a remarkable 23-0 romp over amateur outfit FC Rottach-Egern.

White catches eye for Reign

Rosie White has not taken long to make an impact at Reign FC, scoring her first goals for the club during an impressive run of form.

Midway through the first half of a 1-0 win over Houston Dash, White latched onto a loose ball in the box before holding off a defender and rifling an unstoppable strike into the roof of the net. She nearly added a second early in the second half but her low shot was saved at the near post.

"I think she has brought her creativity to the team," coach Vlatko Andonovski said. "We were missing a little creativity and I think that’s where Rosie has stepped in and given us a little bit of that. It wasn’t just a goal, she hit the crossbar a couple times and connected well with the players. That’s what we’re getting from her and I think there is still a lot to come."

White then repeated her match-winning heroics just a few days later, again scoring the only goal as Reign edged out the Portland Thorns. The Football Ferns forward struck early in the second half, forcing her way through a crowded six-yard box to prod home a redirected cross.

In the final instalment of a three-match, 10-day streak at home, White then took on a fellow Fern as Katie Bowen’s Utah Royals came to town. Both Kiwis started the match but only Bowen was able to celebrate as the Royals clinched a 3-1 win in front of nearly 6,000 fans.

Elsewhere in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), Abby Erceg played in front of the largest crowd in the competition’s history as her North Carolina Courage fell 2-1 to Portland.

Over 25,000 fans packed into Providence Park to witness the top-of-the-table clash, in which the Erceg-captained Courage gave up a one-goal lead to suffer their fourth loss of the campaign and drop to third on the table. Despite the result, Erceg remains in fine personal form and was named in the competition’s Team of the Month for July.

North Carolina is now set to play host to the Women’s International Champions Cup (ICC), which features some of the best teams in the world in the Courage, Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais and Atlético de Madrid.

Unbeaten streak snapped for Boxall

Michael Boxall and his Minnesota United team mates have seen an 11-match unbeaten run across all competitions finally come to an end in thrilling fashion with a 5-3 loss to FC Dallas.

Facing a tight turnaround from a mid-week win over Portland Timbers in the US Open Cup semi-finals, coach Adrian Heath made eight changes to his starting line-up as the Loons’ returned to Major League Soccer (MLS) action. But Boxall retained his place and wore the captain’s armband, his most notable contribution being a headed goal-line clearance early on.

He could face a couple of fellow All Whites next up today with Minnesota playing host to the Colorado Rapids, for whom Tommy Smith and Deklan Wynne are both on the roster.

Neither Kiwi is likely to take part though as Wynne has been out with a long-term injury and there is no word on his potential return while Smith did not take part in last weekend’s 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes after hobbling off with a groin strain late on in the previous match. That resulted in a 6-3 won over the Montreal Impact and was the 50th MLS appearance of Smith’s career.

Bill Tuiloma has meanwhile returned to action after a lengthy injury lay-off, making his first start for the Portland Timbers in over two months in a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Wilkinson moves to Portugal

After fighting her way back from a serious knee injury to be included in the Football Ferns squad for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Hannah Wilkinson has embarked on a new adventure by signing for Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon.

She has previously spent the entirety of her professional career in Scandinavia and is pleased to now be having a change of scene at the age of 27.

"I am very excited to be at such a big club in Portugal - it’s amazing and very professional," she said. "I hope to improve a lot by playing alongside fantastic athletes and in such a good club. I expect nothing but success."

Also looking forward to continuing her return from injury is CJ Bott, who broke her wrist during the World Cup and has been eased back into action at Swedish outfit Vittsjö GIK, for whom Wilkinson also previously played.

Bott made an appearance off the bench a couple of weeks ago in a scoreless draw against table-toppers Rosengard and completed her comeback by starting the next match, a 3-0 win over Limhamn Bunkeflo.

Vittsjö faced the same opponent just a few days later and went one better, Bott again taking full part in a 4-0 win. Her side is now second on the ladder, just three points behind Rosengard.

In Iceland, Betsy Hassett helped KR Reykjavík earn a vital victory in their battle against relegation, playing 90 minutes in a 4-2 win over ÍBV. Hassett and her team mates now have a cup final against Selfoss to look forward to this weekend.

Over in Norway, Rebekah Stott and Victoria Esson both helped Avaldsnes keep a clean sheet in a scoreless stalemate against Stabæk, the Football Ferns pair each playing full matches.

Young Kiwis make professional debuts

A trio of promising young Kiwis have all made their professional debuts in recent days, Elijah Just and Dalton Wilkins doing so in Denmark while Andre de Jong featured for the first time in South Africa.

Just and Wilkins are both playing for FC Helsingør in the Danish third tier and made their first appearances in a 1-1 draw against FA 2000, Just making an immediate impact by coming off the bench to head home a late equaliser.

De Jong meanwhile has immediately broken into the starting line-up for AmaZulu FC, debuting in a 3-0 loss to Bidvest Wits before featuring again in the next match, a 1-0 defeat against Polokwane City.

He nearly got on the scoresheet in the latter match, striking a volley on target early in the second half but being denied by a sharp save.

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