Draw in the Battle of the 'Blues' for the Invincibles!

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Manchester City  Women   1-1  Birmingham City Ladies

trophylift Taken from Man City.com

The curtain came down on the Women’s Super League for Manchester City Women this past Sunday, as the side remained unbeaten and became ‘the Invincibles’ by going the whole season without a single defeat as they finished with a 1-1 draw against Birmingham City Ladies. It was only a few weeks ago that two teams met in this year’s Continental Cup Final at the Academy Stadium at start of October, with the home side coming out on top 1-0 thanks to a Lucy Bronze header in Extra Timer proving to be the winner.

It saw the club trying to create a party atmosphere ahead of their final WSL match of the 2016 season against Birmingham, with the title-presentation taking place after the game was over. Many may have thought that this game was a dead rubber and one that the home side would easily wrap up. However much like some big parties you get now and then, it saw Birmingham Ladies becoming the party poopers of the piece and wasn’t in the party mood. When the sides met in the cup final less than a month ago, it saw the West Midlands club coming out hard and not giving their hosts any easy way in ot to the game.

City had the first chance in the game afterward Jill Scott prodded a shot on goal but was collected by Berger in the Birmingham goals. Minutes later and the visitors were then awarded a penalty in the 5th minute of the game, after Lucy Bronze was adjudged to have fouled Andrine Hegerberg in the penalty box and it had looked like the England defender had pulled out of the challenge. Aofie Mannion was given the duties of taking the penalty for Birmingham City Women and after going early with her first effort before the whistle, it saw her initial penalty beating the England keeper all ends up and she repeated the feat a second sending the City keeper the wrong way.

The home fans were stunned by their sides going behind so early in the game and was only the fourth goal conceded by City this season in the WSL. City found it really difficult to get their creative spark going at first as their play was very sloppy and looked anything but a team that was undefeated all year. Chances were far and between for the hosts, as Birmingham shown their defensive capabilities once more and made it difficult for the home side throughout. Demi Stokes went close for the home side after she battled her way into the Birmingham penalty area and saw her effort stopped by Berger once again, with the former PSG keeper having another good game for the visitors. City created a clump of chances then soon after, as Kosovare Asllani saw her linking up with Jane Ross and had the Swede bringing another good stop by the keeper. Toni Duggan was the City next player to try her luck from range, with the England International shooting from outside the box and narrowly missing the target and had it gone it would most certainly have been candidate for Goal of the Season.

It was a very frustrating game for the home fans to watch, as with the Citizens trailing still to that early goal by Birmingham, they did seem to be shell-shocked for a certain amount of time and took them a while to get back to their normal play. Sloppy play seemed to be a common theme in the City team during the first half of the game, as balls were squirming under foot and passes were being played to invisible man at times. The hosts quite clearly wanted to finished their season on high note and try to have their undefeated record intact. Lucy Bronze who was the match-winner against her opponents in the Continental Cup at the start of the month, Bronze then saw her firing a fierce volley on target and needed Berger to be very alert to the shot. 

City over the course of the season always seemed to find a way to breakdown their opponents and score when it mattered, so after 54 minutes gone in the game it saw a huge stroke of luck for the home side when Demi Stoke put in a deep cross saw the ball dropping in for a goal to level the game up at 1-1. The cross come-shot then gave the home side the incentive to push on for a winning goal and saw the energy levels in the home side doubled and see City on the up now. Jill Scott saw her shot just missing the target and then moments later the Birmingham goalkeeper was on hand to deny Steph Houghton’s free kick mid-way through the half.  

The hosts pushed for a winning goal and none seemed to be forthcoming for the Manchester side, while their opponents were very content on just trying to soak up pressure and take a point out of the game. Jennifer Beattie saw her shot on goal turned aside by the Berger once more and then from the resulting corner saw Jill Scott having a goal chalked off for an apparent foul on the keeper in the process. City brought on Nikita Parris for the final twenty-minutes or so and had the former Everton striker almost celebrating a goal minutes from coming on.  Sadly for her, Berger pulled out one more save from her locker as she got the slightest of fingertips to the ball to deny Parris giving City the lead as it ball bounced back off the crossbar. Despite all the best efforts that the newly-crowned Champions could throw at their opponents,  it saw the game finished in a stalemate and had Nick Cushing side finishing the season unbeaten and becoming the female ‘Invincibles’.

With the domestic season now done and dusted now for the year, it gives the Blues time to recover and look forward to the visit of Danish side Brondby IF to the Academy Stadium next Wednesday Night in the Women’s Champions League. The match will see the Blues being tested far more this time around than that of their last opponents from Russia, as the Russian side struggled to register a shot hardly in almost 180 minutes of play.

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Bristol take spoils in Promotion shootout against Everton

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Everton Ladies   2 – 3  Bristol City Women

Bristol City Women sealed their place in next years WSL (Women’s Super League) with a 3-2 win over Everton Ladies in a cracking top of the table clash this past Saturday at the Select Security Stadium in Widnes. The game was billed effectively as a winner-takes-all match, with whoever won the game would pretty much be being promoted to the elite of English Women’s football.

Prior to the teams walking out onto the pitch for the game, it saw a lovely touch by the Merseyside club in which the younger sister of Zoe Tynan who tragically died during the year, saw her sister playing a version of Everton’s famous theme ‘Z-Cars’ on saxophone along with her music teacher and was an emotional moment for all in attendance.

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Once the match was off and running, it saw the home side starting the brighter of the two, but Everton just weren’t able to transfer their play into anything that meaningful in the way of a goal scoring opportunity. The ‘Toffees’ duo of Claudia Walker and Rosella Ayane, saw them two putting the Bristol defence under pressure and causing their opponents plenty of problems in the half. For the visitors, they spent the opening ten minutes of the contest trying to just contain the ‘Blue Girls’ and did a good job in limiting the chances that the home side could muster. Bristol’s first attack brought them a corner and twas completed wasted when the kick hit the side netting.

Krystal Johnston was making a couple of attacking runs down the Vixens left hand side and so when the former Manchester City player was trying to run onto a lovely weighted ball behind the defence, it saw Rosella Ayane who was stood offside then touching the ball and had Johnston fuming at her teammate for not leaving, so had a possible chance go begging. Ayane then nearly redeemed herself minutes later, when the striker on-loan from Chelsea Ladies, saw her free-kick floated in and almost caught out the goalkeeper from 40 yards out with the ball just dipping over the bar.

Bristol began to get some good attacks going their way and needed the Everton defence to be alert to their opponents threats in the game and stop them from getting too much into the contest. The hosts nearly opening the scoring with Rosella Ayane again at the heart of the attack, as this time the ‘Toffees’ captain Michelle Hinnigan played a ball up to Ayane and saw her shot being palmed away at the near post by Caitlin Leach in the City goals for a corner. With the home side on top and just not able to make the most of their possession count, it typically saw the visitors taking the lead on 26 minutes through a swerving Claire Emslie goal. It saw the shot swerving horribly for Kirstie Levell in the Everton goals, with the sudden change of movement causing the problem.

Four minutes later and Everton had a chance to get back on level terms, when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after a moment of confusion that saw neither side sure of what the official was giving and then had referee signalling a shirt pull from a Bristol player in the box and gave them the penalty. Claudia Walker then stepped up to take the spot kick for the hosts and put it to the keepers bottom left hand corner to square the match up at 1-1 on the half hour mark. Leach was then forced into another save for the Vixens soon after, when Dan Turner saw her free kick well saved by the Bristol keeper and was cleared from danger.

Walker then saw her dipping volley from the edge of the area going just over the bar and saw Leach breathing a sigh of relief. Vicky Jones then became the saviour for the home side prior to half time, when the defender dashed back in time to clear an effort off the line from a shot that looked to be going in after the keeper was caught in no man’s land. As the half time whistle blew, it saw both managers happy with their teams efforts after the opening half of the game and was still anyone’s for the taking.

With the second half underway, it was noticeable that the game had become more open and that allowed the skillful players to create some magic and see the game become stretched a bit. Everton came out looking a bit shaky in defence and saw their passes getting cut out by the away side far too much for the Evertonian’s in attendence. Bristol then put the hosts under a lot of pressure early on in the second half, and that led to panic in the ranks amongst the home side and found them not able to play like they were doing in the first half.

Everton were finding it very difficult to try and create anything in the way of attacking play, with Bristol pressing them hard and forcing the home side in trouble. Everton were becoming very susceptible to errors in the game and so it proved to be their downfall. It then became a bigger problem when a poorly under-hit back pass was collected by Millie Farrow, and saw the Vixen striker running unchallenged into the are and stroked it past Levell to restore the visitors lead after 52 minutes gone. Bristol pushed hard for a third and saw the Everton keeper making a couple of stunning saves to keep Ellie Wilson off the score sheet with two brilliant stops.

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Krystal Johnston then found herself in a great position to level the game, but the midfielder could only skew her shot wide of the goal and had it going out for a throw-in instead. New blood was need by the home side and saw Everton boss Andy Spence bringing on Northern Ireland International Simone Magill for Millie Turner with more than twenty-minutes of play left to go. Everton yet again was able to get into some really dangerous area, but when a ball was put into the are it saw nobody near by to bury a chance. Michelle Hinnigan then went close to a goal for the home side with just over twenty minutes left to play, when she had a header off a Dan Turner cross going just inches past the post and you sensed a goal was forthcoming

However that goal came for the away side as Claire Emslie looked to have struck the killer blow in the game on 69 minutes, when the striker scored from distance and saw her effort flying past the despairing reach of Kirstie Levell to make it a 3-1 game. The visitors had the home side on the rack and looked like they could have scored a few more if they had made the most of their attacks that they had. The hosts looked down and out after that third goal they conceded and if this had been a boxing match then the referee would have stopped it, as Everton just failed to even get the ball out of their half on occasions and had the visitors in the ascendency.

Andy Spence then made his final two substitutions in the game, with Ellie Stewart and Jenna Dear both coming on for Vicky Jones and Krystal Johnston as the hosts pushed for a goal. Gabby George was then thrown up field to play as an extra attacker, and that brought new dimension to the Everton side after they had looked pretty poor going forward in the whole of second half.

George then forced her way into the penalty box, before launching a shot on goal that was spilt by Leach in the Bristol goal and saw some terrible defending by the visitors right near their goal line and led to Dan Turner credited with a goal, as the ball went into the back of the net with five minutes to go. Everton pushed players forward to try to score these two-goals that the Toffees needed to gain promotion and saw Ayane once again troubling Leach from long-range, but as time went on it seemed to be a case of ‘too little, too late’ as the minutes ticked by. However the home side were then awarded another penalty with two of the allocated five minutes gone in stoppage time for a high foot.

This time around Claudia Walker saw her penalty saved by Caitlin Leach, with goalkeeper becoming the hero for the visitors but in truth it was a pretty poorly struck penalty that was pushed on the post by the goalie. The hosts huffed and puffed their way to finding a third goal and at best claiming a draw, but it was too late and with the final whistle came the Bristol City players running onto the pitch to celebrate with their teammates as they celebrate their promotion back up in to the WSL. The result left Everton distraught and despite battling hard all the way to the end, it was just a case of coming up short in the match.

Their early play in the opening half of the second all but doomed the Blue Girls to defeat in all honesty, as their sloppiness and lapses in concentration allowed the visitors to score twice and from that point onwards they never looked like pulling it back in truth. Everton now need help from other sources, as Yeovil are the only team that the Toffees can catch for promotion and if ‘the Lady Glovers’ beat London Bees tomorrow afternoon then it will be all over for Everton and it will see the two West Country sides in the WSL 1 next year. 

World Series with a difference

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This week saw the start of the World Series in Baseball taking place between the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago Cubs. The series could be headlined as ‘the battle of the droughts’, as that is one thing that these two franchises share is their lack of success in the post-season and where both rank first and second for the longest wait for another title in Major League Baseball history.

Cleveland have gone 48 years without winning a championship and saw their last title success coming way back in 1948, when they defeated the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves). For the Chicago Cubs, them and their fans have had to wait twice the as long of their opponents and more so. The Cubs have gone 108 years since they last boasted about a championship Pennant and was after they had previously over it overa two-year span between 1907 and 1908.

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Cleveland Indians logo 

Looking firstly at the Cleveland and it has witnessed their sporting sides rise and fall over the last 48 years and the ‘Forest City’ as it is sometimes known, has seen mixed fortunes. Since their last success back in 1948, it has saw their American Football side the ‘Browns’ win five titles in that time, however this was pre-Superbowl era and has saw the side being one of the worst sides in football currently in the NFL. In the case of the ‘Cavaliers’ in Basketball, it has saw them going from the ‘outhouse to the penthouse’ in the NBA, with LeBron James rejoining the side for a second time and saw him guiding his side to their first ever NBA title last season.

On the subject of Baseball and it hasn’t been great reading if you are a ‘Indians’ fan, as despite making the World Series three times since they last tasted victory back in 1948, they have had to settle for second place in 1958 and then twice in three years during the mid 90’s. A sweep by the San Francisco Giants in ‘58 saw them then returning to the Fall Classic and suffering losses to the Atlanta Braves in 1995 and then the Florida Marlins (now Miami) two years later in 1997. Back in 1995, the side had achieved their first AL (American League) pennant since 1958 after series wins over the Boston Red Sox and then the Seattle Marriners en-route to their first World Series in 37 years.

Their search for a championship would go on though, as they lost out to the Atlanta Braves in six games going down 4-2 on that occasion. Cleveland then made their way back two seasons later, and would faced the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series and was one that was arguably the most tightly contested series that there has been. The teams traded wins in every other game that series, with Game 7 going right down to the wire and needing extra innings to determine a winner. Florida’s Édgar Renteria proved to be the hero for the Marlins that night, as his hit down the middle brushed the glove of the pitcher for Cleveland that night and saw Craig Counsell running home for the telling score to give Florida the championship.

The franchise has always been embroiled in controversy over the use of their name and logo going as far back as 1915, when the club changed their name from the Cleveland Naps to the Cleveland Indians. They then started to then use a logo called ‘Chief Wahoo’ of which was a red-faced caricature of a Native American that many deemed to be a ‘Racist’ symbol and has led to many protests over the years, especially by Native American groups. The same argument has been levelled against the Washington Redskins in the NFL and now has many reporters in the US even refusing to mention the team name due to the nature of the discussion. However in 2013, the club took the decision to move the logo and have it as secondary for the team and was replaced with a capital “C” logo instead for Cleveland. 

Cleveland have reached the American League Championship Series (ALCS) twice in the last 10 years, and on both occasions they were beaten by the eventual winners of the World Series in the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. They set a franchise record this past July, by winning 14 straight games en route to their 8th Central divisional title and saw them making light work in the playoffs of their respective opponents. In the divisional series they swept the Boston Red Sox 3-0, before making their way to the World Series with a comfortable four games to one win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

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Chicago Cubs logo

Facing the Ohio outfit is the team dubbed by many over the years ‘the Loveable Losers’, as the Chicago Cubs will finally play in a World Series since 1945. Chicago have the most unwanted record in all of North American sports, for the longest wait to win another title by any Professional sports team within the four major sports (MLB,NHL,NBA,NFL) as the drought currently sits at just..108 years.

The Cubbies or ‘Cubs’ for short, have seen them and their long-suffering fans put through the mill so to speak time and saw them time and time again left disappointed. Chicago have suffered with so much bad luck in the post season that it is almost hard to start where it all began. They were the first Major League club to play in three straight World Series matches, as they lost out to their South City rivals in the Chicago White Sox in 1906, but would then win the following two years with a sweep of the Detroit Tigers in 1907 and then repeated their success twelve months later with a 4-1 win, again over the Tigers.

Since that time though, the Cubs have failed to make it back to another World Series and so has started this prolonged wait to see them reaching this point again. They did go on to win the National League Pennant another eight times since their victory in 1908, but they have failed to take the extra step and been runners-up instead on the other occasions. Their luck or lack of it, would take an even stranger twist during their 1945 World Series match up with the Detroit Tigers, when a Greek Immigrant that came to watch and brought his pet goat along, would lead to one of the bizarre and talked about curses in Baseball history and sports in general.

During Game 4 of the 1945 World Series at Wrigley Field in Chicago, a Greek gentleman by the name of Billy Sianis who had emigrated to the United States from Greece, saw him owning a bar in down in the Illinois area called the Billy Goat Tavern and had Mr Sianis taking in a game and watching the Cubs. However, Sianis decided to bring his pet Billy Goat ‘Murphy’ along and was asked by those from the Cubs to remove the goat from the stadium and leave. This was due to complaints by people watching the game and was subjected to the bad odor that his pet goat was giving off. The request by the club angered Sianis, to which he is believed to have said “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more”. This has led to speculation over what he meant by this, as some interpret it as never winning a Pennant or that he meant another World Series success or winning a World Series game.

Chicago would go on to lose the game in question and then lost the following two games to the Tigers and went down 4-2 overall to Detroit. The North Siders have failed to reach another World Series since that year and the phrase that used get rolled out every year is ‘The Curse of the Billy Goat’ whenever it s featuring the Cubs. Over the decades though, it has seen a few strange incidents occurring during Cubs games in the postseason or just linked with the ball club, with the 2003 National League Championship game really bringing the curse to the attention of every baseball fan.

This is certain moments that have been said to be down to the so-called curse of the Billy Goat. On September 9th 1969, it saw the Chicago Cubs facing the New York Mets in a Pennant game and witnessed a stray black cat running out onto the field of play and going between the Cubs Captain at the time in Ron Santo and the Chicago dugout. After this incident, New York would win the game and moved ahead of the Cubs in the series and beat Chicago as the Mets went on to become the champions that year.  

In 1984 it saw Chicago then facing the San Diego Padres and after going two games up in a best-of-five series, the Cubs would lose the next two games and in the deciding Game 7, it saw first baseman for the Cubs in Leon Durham having a ball get past his glove and allowed the Padres to score and would see them eliminating Chicago. One of the most famous incidents in all of baseball came back in October 25th 1986, when the New York Mets faced off against the Boston Red Sox. Boston had picked up Chicago’s Bill Buckner in a trade during the 1984 season and so with Boston having their own Curse to deal with, with ‘the curse of the Bambino’, with the Bambino being Babe Ruth’s nickname. Ruth had been sold to their rivals the New York Yankees and Boston go from a winning team to a losing one and many said it was down to Babe Ruth being moved on.

During Game 6 of the 1986 World Series it saw Bill Buckner making a huge error, as a ground ball slipped through his legs and allowed a Mets player to run to home base and give New York the victory. It saw apparently Buckner wearing a Cubs batting glove under his catching mitt as when the replay of the error was shown on television.

Without doubt though the most famous or infamous moment in recent times came during the 2003 National League Championship Series (NLCS) against the Florida Marlins in Game 6. With Chicago leading 3-2 in the series and 3-0 up in the eighth Inning and were just four outs from reaching winning the Pennant, it saw Marlins Luis Castillo hitting a fly ball down the line towards the foul line and saw one of the most played moments in baseball occur. It looked to be going a foul ball and with the Cubs outfielder Moisés Alou looking to try to make a possible catch and leave the visitors having one out remaining, a couple of fans tried to grab the ball and in doing so stopped the ball from being caught and had Alou furious with the fans. This then led to a fan who had a headset on with a green turtleneck sweater and blue baseball cap, becoming a well-known figure to everyone from that point on wards due to the resulting actions.

Television stations that were showing the game kept showing the image of this baseball fan cutting a lonely figure and would later be named as Steve Bartman. Bartman was lambasted by the commentators at the time for stopping the catch and bad mouthed him and made reference to the ‘Goat curse’ and that this fan had cost his team. The whole incident is documented on a brilliant ESPN 30 for 30 film, entitled ‘Catching Hell’ and shows just some of the abuse this poor fan got from his fellow Chicago supporters over that incident. Things spiralled against the Cubs and saw them walloped by Florida 8-3 and would see the Marlins take the series in Game 7 too.   

The team would flounder along for a while with a couple of trips to the playoffs, before being swept in successive seasons by firstly the Arizona Diamondbacks and then the LA Dodgers in the 2007 and 2008 post seasons. By 2013 there seemed to be some light finally at the end of the tunnel for the ‘North Siders’, as in 2009 the club got new owners in the Ricketts family and was led by chairman Thomas S. Ricketts, who seemed to begin getting the wheels in motion for awaking a sleeping giant from it slumber. Players in Chicago’s Minor-League started to impressed and saw the Cubs acquiring first baseman from the San Diego Padres in Anthony Rizzo, while the likes of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were all progressing nicely as the 2014 season came around.

November 2, 2014 saw Joe Maddon stepping into the Chicago hot seat, after he put pen to paper on a five-year deal to become the new Cubs Coach. One of his first movements was to bring in Free-Agent Jon Lester and also brought in former Houston Astros center fielder in Dexter Fowler, with both being very shrewd signings by Maddon. Three rookies were added to the organisation by mid-June of 2015, with Kris Bryant, Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber all in the line up for the Cubs. Last year saw the emergence of pitcher Jake Arrieta having a breakout year and earlier this season, Arrieta threw for his second no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds back in April.

Chicago made it to the National League Championship Series once again, after they beat the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wild Card game in Pittsburgh and then defeated their bitter rivals in the St Louis Cardinals 3-1. Sadly Chicago would be swept by the New York Mets in the NLCS and was to denied a place again in the World Series. CHowever twelve months later and it has seen a stunning year for the Cubs side, as this season had them celebrating 100 years at Wrigley Field and saw them saw them finishing the regular season with the best record in the Major League. Chicago also passed the 100 wins barrier, as they finished with 103 victories over the season and was the first time they had done that since 1935, plus also achieved the most wins the franchise has won since 1910.

This post season was to be the acid test for the Chicago side and whether they could grit it out and prove handle the pressure of being the favourites to lift the championship. It saw them facing stern opposition in the National League playoffs, as their first foes were the San Francisco Giants and it saw the Cubs beating the Giants in California in Game 4 and taking the series 3-1. In the National League Championship Series game, they met the LA Dodgers and despite winning the first game at home, they would then drop the following two games to the Dodgers while also being shutout 1-0 and 6-0 in Games 2 and 3. This saw the Cubs falling behind for the first time in the playoffs and had fans worrying if they were going to fail again in an NLCS series. Those worries were put to bed in Games 4 and 5 in Los Angeles, as the Cubs beat the Dodgers twice with two big wins to see them moving 3-2 ahead in the series.

Clayton Kershaw who had put on a clinic of pitching against the Chicago side in Game 2 and shut them out at Wrigley Field, saw the Dodgers coaching team putting him in for the Game 6. However talk before the game was of good pitching needed by either side to win the game from all the broadcast journalists and writers, and it saw a marvellous performance by Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who saw hit only twice in the game and led his side to their first World Series with a dominant 5-0 win and a chance to “Fly the W” once more. 

What this series also represents, is a break to one of these teams respective droughts and will see a long streak snapped by either Cleveland or Chicago. Whoever it is, it is bound to be an exciting series with twists and turns through out. 

Cartier Hat-Trick sinks the Capitals

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Manchester Storm 6 – 2 Edinburgh Capitals

Manchester Storm defeated the Edinburgh Capitals 6-2 at the Altrincham Ice Rink this week, as a hat-trick by Cody Cartier helped the Altrincham based club move up to sixth in the standing with a 6-2 victory on Sunday night. The game also coincided with the annual ‘Pink the Rink’ game that saw the club joining forces with The Christie charity and made more than £1,000 by the end of the evening, as match night announcer Jon Hammond and Storm player Eric Neilson both went pink for the game and saw Neilson sporting not only pink hair, but also a pink beard too for the cause.

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Eric Neilson ‘Pretty in Pink’ – Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography.

It saw the opening to the game being mainly played inside the Manchester zone and had the Capitals very much on top in the first half of the period. Storm had their netminder in Mike Clemente to thank, as without his saves the visitors would have been ahead by a couple of goals and saw his teammates struggling to get into the game.

Manchester through struck first against the run of play, with Patrik Valcak squeezing his shot somehow through the pads of Travis Fullerton in the Capitals nets and had it nestle in the bottom corner to give the hosts a 1-0 lead in the 4th minute. Edinburgh soon got back on level terms, as after some lovely build up play by the Capitals forwards it saw Mason Wilgosh and Taylor McDougall combining to set up Jared Staal, whose high rising shot flew in over the shoulder of Clemente to tie the game.

Manchester tried to force the play a bit late on in the period and saw them starting to some much-needed momentum in their play prior to the break. Play in the Second saw a more even game, with the home side taking the lead on the power play after Edinburgh’s Mike D’Orazio got called for an elbows penalty and was iffy in truth. From that call the Storm moved the puck nicely around on the powerplay and ended up with Cody Cartier blasting one from the blue line to give Manchester a 2-1 lead.

Storm then opened up a two-goal cushion through a Patrik Valcak strike, when the home forwards stripped the puck from a Capitals man by the boards in the neutral zone, but then finished off nicely by the Czech forward see daylight between the Caps. Edinburgh brought it back to a one goal game again soon after through, with Mason Wilgosh netting at 31:55 and saw the Capitals man firing the twine to trail 3-2. Quite literally over a minute later, it saw Darian Dziurzynski then re-establishing the two goal cushion for the home side, with a lovely team move that saw Paul Philips and Patrick Valcak combining once more for the hosts fourth.

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Scramble at the Front of Capitals goal – Photo by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography.

Manchester then found themselves having to kill off a late 5 on 3 Capitals power play at the back-end of the second, with Paul Swindlehurst and Patrik Valcak both serving time in the penalty box for their respective calls. That penalty kill saw Mike Clemente and the Storm Penalty Kill, doing an outstanding job of killing off the penalties and virtually killed off the hopes of the visitors getting back into the contest, as it looked to have taken the wind out of them.

Third period action saw the Storm coming out a very different animal so to speak than the previous two periods, as the hosts bossed proceedings and took the game to the visitors as Edinburgh just fell away badly and saw them becoming very sloppy and careless. Cody Cartier made it 5-2 for the home side as the forward grabbed his second of the game and saw that contest effectively over, with the Storm beginning to feel more comfortable and started to enjoyed themselves.

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Cody Cartier celebrates one of Three strikes – Photos by Aaliyah & Mark Ferriss of All Sports Photography.

Cartier, then had one chalked off by the referee for a high sticks and despite a polite inquiry by the Storm players, it saw the goal washed out by Mr Brown. With 5.50 left in the third, it saw the Canadian eventually completing his hat trick and fired in a sixth goal past Travis Fullerton, to round off a good evening all round for the club on and off the ice. The win moves Manchester into sixth position ahead of next weekend’s games against the Cardiff Devils at home on Saturday, before they make the long trip up north to face Edinburgh for a third time in Murrayfield on Sunday.

Rampant City complete double in Russia

 

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 Zvezda Perm 05  0 – 4  Manchester City Women
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After last weeks comfortable victory in the first leg of the Women’s Champions League at the Academy Stadium back home in Manchester, it saw the Blues taking their 2-0 lead to Russia on what was a bitterly cold Wednesday night. With the weather being almost ‘Manchester like’ in condition, it saw City proving to be too hot to handle for their hosts and put in arguably their best away performance of the season with a stunning 4-0 win in the Russians own backyard. The defeat was the first time that Zvezda Perm 05 had suffered a home loss since 2009, when German club Duisburg beat them in the the two-legged Final. 

Zvezda as you would expect, started the brightly of the two sides as they looked to try and get an early goal to unsettle their opponents. Anastasia Pozdeeva forced a save out of Karen Bardsley in the City goal, and was possibly Zvezda’s first meaningful effort in the tie at the moment in time. City then began to make inroads in the game and took control, with Izzy Christiansen having the first chance for the visitors as Iryna Zvarich in the Russians goal made a save from her. The Citizens then broke the deadlock with a Jennifer Beattie volley that came from a Kosovare Asllani corner and had the Scottish defender putting City in front after 22 minutes of play and lead 3-0 on aggregate.

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Keira Walsh & Izzy Christiansen celebrate with Jen Beattie as she makes it 3-0. Pic: ManCity.com

From one Scottish International to another, as Beattie’s Scotland team-mate in Jane Ross had her thinking she had score, but could only see her effort hitting the post and denying her a Champions League goal, as the away side was well and truly on top in the contest and bossing play. City then went two goals to the good in the 32nd minute of play courtesy of a Lucy Bronze goal, after the goalkeeper could only parry the ball from another Asllani corner kick and Bronze was on hand to turn it in for her second goal in the competition and have the tie effectively sewn up before the half.

The Blues were never in any danger of slipping up in the tie, and that was despite a rally by the home that started the second half off where they struck the woodwork through a Daryna Apananschenko effort and the visitors managed to regain their control. It did seem like the Russian side had exhausted all ideas in the opening ten minutes of the second half and from that point onwards it was just City controlling the game at will.

Any worries that the visitors had of possibly letting their opponents back into the game while being so dominant were quickly answered, when firstly Jennifer Beattie scored her second of the game in the 53rd minute to make 3-0. Lucy Bronze then showed her attack threat again much like she shown in the first leg in Manchester, as the England International squared a ball back for Izzy Christiansen to just tap the ball home into an unguarded net for 4-0 and see Manchester City Women easing through to the next round.

Zvezda 2005 v Manchester City Ladies: UEFA Womens Champions League

City Women victors coming off the pitch   Pic: Mancity.com

On the whole, the tie was seen to be one of the toughest opponents in the draw and was expected to test City prior to the two games being played out. If anything it was arguably the two most comfortable performances that the club have encountered this entire season, and that includes facing a couple of the WSL 2 teams with all due respect to them.

The win completed a dream debut for the recently crowned English League champions and they can now look to hopefully progress as far as they can in the tournament. A few days later it was announced that City would take on Danish side Brøndby IF in the round of 16 and have the Blues once again hosting the first leg in early November.

 

 

'Super Mario' double steers Storm past the Capitals

photo  Capitals_logo

Manchester Storm  4 – 2  Edinburgh Capitals 

Manchester Storm got back to winning ways this past Saturday night with a gritty 4-2 win over the Edinburgh Capitals as the Storm was made to battle all the way for the victory by their Scottish and Conference opponents at the Altrincham Ice Rink. Two goals by Canadian forward ‘Super’ Mario Trabucco saw him helping his side to overcome the ‘Caps‘ and move up to sixth place in the Elite League table with the win.

It saw an unbelievable start by the home side, as the Storm came out on fire in the opening six minutes and were almost unplayable to defend against, with Travis Fullerton in the Capitals goals almost being a one-man team in the opening minutes of the contest. That said, Manchester did make the most of their quick start with two quick fire goals into the opening 72 seconds of the game, after Mario Trabucco opened the scoring after 55 seconds gone on the clock after Darian Dziurzynski played a pass at the front of the net for Trabucco to put home. Cody Cartier then doubled the advantage six seconds later for the home side as he fired his shot past the goalie to leave their opponent stunned with those two early strikes.

Storm bossed the opening period and didn’t give a sniff to their Gardiner Conference rival at all and if not for the brilliance in netminder Travis Fullerton of the Capitals then it would have been a case of the game being over inside the first half of the period, with the Capitals reeling in the game. One thing that didn’t seem to be clicking at all for Manchester was their power play unit, after they struggled to set up any kind of attacking threats with two power plays that came their way in the first.

Opening moments of the second saw the Storm finally cashing in on a power play coming their way, with Jack Prince putting home to make it 3-0 early in the period and that looked like it could spell the end of the game for Edinburgh, as they weren’t showing signs of any type of comeback at all. The visitors then started to show signs of life in the game with Mike Clemente in the home goal forced into a couple of stops, but Manchester always seemed to be always on top of their opponents and smothered their attacks.

Some bad habits then started to creep into Storm’s play and had the home side picking up penalties with Mark Heatley getting a tripping call and then Taylor Dickin picked up a needless roughing penalty after he kept up his heated exchanges with a Capitals man after the whistle. Manchester then played out the final minute and twenty-seconds on the penalty kill, after Heatley was serving an interference call. Edinburgh then thought that they had pulled a goal back through a Michael Dorazio effort, but after a brief discussion with the officials on the ice it saw no-goal given as it was adjudge to have hit the post.

Much like the start to the previous two periods of play, it saw the visitors capitalising on a power play opportunity through a Karel Hromas redirect at the front of the net to see Edinburgh back in the contest. The visitors then began to put the home side under pressure, as they came more into the game and that was even more evident when Taylor McDougall put in from close range to see the Caps move within one of the Storm.

Both teams wrestled for advantage and when it seemed like the play was favouring the away side, it then saw Edinburgh nearly jumping on an error by the home side and forced Clemente to make a stop and cover up with the home defence a bit shaky. Then came the turning point in the game as Storm’s Cody Cartier and Edinburgh’s Garrett Milan both collided behind the visitors net with the Caps player coming off worse, this then saw Dorazio hit the Manchester man into the boards from behind while he was on one knee and Patrik Valcak took exception to it. With order restored, it saw the Capitals man being ejected from the game with a 5+Game for a check to the head and gave the home side a power play.

Manchester was given a five-minute power play from the Dorazio incident and looked to make full use of it, but for a majority of the time it was like they were going to squander this great opportunity that they had, with the Capitals clearing the puck away from their goal. Without doubt Edinburgh’s best penalty killer was between the pipes in Fullerton, and he was having another outstanding game against Manchester and was denying the home side time and time again from increasing their lead and helped his side remain in the contest. Eventually the Storm managed to break down his defences again, thanks to a Mario Trabucco goal that saw the puck find the lower half of the net and put the hosts 4-2 up.

Edinburgh pulled their goalie late on in search of two goals to tie the game, but the home side were not to be denied and picked up a big two points ahead of their long bus journey up to Dundee awaiting them the next night. 

Sunday saw the Storm facing the long trip up north of the border to face the Dundee Stars at the Dundee Ice Arena and went down 3-2, with Paul Phillips and late Trevor Johnson both hitting the target..

City dominate first leg in debut European tie

 

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Manchester City 2 – 0  Zvezda Perm 05

Manchester City Women made it a debut to remember in their historic first ever Women’s Champions League match game, as the Citizens were given a tough draw in their first outing in the top European competition, facing Russian side Zvezda Perm 05. City’s Academy Stadium played host to it’s first Champions League contest and saw goals by England International duo of Jill Scott and Lucy Bronze, helping the home side passing their European examination with flying colours and take an important 2-0 lead with them over to Russia next Thursday for the second leg.

The home side settled pretty quickly into the game, although they weren’t troubling the keeper much. Visitors Zvezda, really struggled to cope with City and especially the runs down the flanks from Lucy Bronze, as she got a lot of joy for the home side. City were in complete control of the game throughout and never looked like giving their opponents a mere sniff of a chance in the match. Nick Cushing’s side dominated from the first whistle and had their opposition in all kinds of trouble across the pitch. There constant pressing high up the field saw Jane Ross trying a pop from long range, but she dragged her shot wide of the target as they began to create some meaningful chances.

Jill Scott then wrote her name in City Women’s folklore, as she scored the sides first European goal in the competition, after a determined run by Lucy Bronze saw the England defender knocking a ball between two of the Zvezda defenders and her cross in the area saw Ross taking the pace out of the ball and fell nicely for Scott who poked home for a 1-0 lead on 33 minutes. In truth it was no more than the home side deserved, as the Russian side were leaving gaps all over and were unable to contain a marauding Manchester City side.

manchester-citys-steph-houghton-heads-at-goal City Captain Steph Houghton sees her header hitting the bar    Pic: Man City.com 

City almost doubled their lead through a Toni Duggan effort shortly after, when Lucy Bronze yet again raced down the right wing and put in a fizzing ball into the penalty area that missed everyone, but Duggan smashed the ball on target and needed a good stop by the Zvezda keeper to keep it out. Steph Houghton was the next City player go close for the home side, after the Captain attacked a Toni Duggan corner and saw her header rattling off the bar and was steered away from danger by the Russian side. The last decent chance of any note came from defender Jennifer Beattie, when the Scottish defender headed from another Duggan corner and saw her effort going just wide of the near post.

Both teams would have been pleased to some extent as the half time whistle came, though Nick Cushing may have slightly ruing his sides luck in the opening half, as they could easily have been five up at the break. Kosovare Asllani then brought a save from the Russian keeper mid way through the second half, after a neat little turn and shot saw the Swedish star having her shot comfortably dealt with. City then had a shout for a penalty turned down by the Danish match official, when her Scandinavian neighbour in Asllani had her her legs taken away from her, but the referee waved play on.

More pressure came from the home side as they looked to cash in on their domination of the match and saw Keira Walsh having a rare effort on target, that was comfortably caught by the goalie and seemed to be a one Woman team in truth. Jill Scott then came agonisingly close to making it 2-0 for the host, after a little through ball by Duggan saw Scott lifting it over the keepers outstretched arm from a tight angle and saw the ball coming back off the inside of the far post to deny the home side a second goal that they really deserved.

man-city-manchester-city-lucy-bronze-champions-league_3802358 Steph Houghton and Keira Walsh celebrate with goalscorer Lucy Bronze after she makes it 2-0   Pic: ManCity.com 

Finally the pressure told and Player of the Match Lucy Bronze bagged a goal with a well taken volley in the 90th minute to see the Blues win 2-0 and look set to progress next week if they play anything close to how they played on this night. 

 

Ice Hockey: Panthers edge Storm in Shoot-out

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Manchester Storm  2 – 3  Nottingham Panthers

(After Shootout)

Sunday night saw the Manchester Storm putting in a very much improved performance from their 7-0 drubbing up in Fife the night before as they were edged 3-2 in a shoot-out against the Nottingham Panthers at the Altrincham Ice Rink in a Challenge Cup group game.

Storm have been involved in a few tight games of late and this was no different as they battled a Nottingham side which featured former NHL enforcer Brian McGrattan in their line-up. Manchester was still missing Matt Bissonnette and long-term absentee Adam Harding for the game, but they did start the better of the two sides in the first period of play and had Mark Heatley getting them on the board with a deflected shot that went in over the shoulder of Jindrich Pacl in the visitors net and put Manchester one up with former Panther Paul Swindlehurst credited with an assist.

Manchester’s Mario Trubucco saw him having a chance that was stopped by Pacl as the home side remained on top in the game midway through the first period of period. Nottingham was finding it hard to find to breakthrough the Storm defence and when they did manage to create a good chance it saw Mike Clemente coming up big to make the stop and help preserve the hosts lead. As the period came to an end it wasn’t the end of the action however, as Dallas Erdhart was called for a cross-checking penalty and then saw Darian Dziurzynski and Robert Farmer having a short scrap, that saw the Storm man catching Farmer with a punch and saw him needing to get stitched up as he left the ice with blood needing to be scraped off the ice.

The start of the second period saw the Panthers tying the game up through Matt Carter, after some indecision near the Manchester net saw the puck finding its way somehow into the net and despite the home side protesting, the referee Steve Brown waved away the protests and saw East Midlands side making it a 1-1 game with 11 seconds gone in the middle frame. Nottingham clawed their way back in the contest and with the period being very stop start and upsetting the rhythm of the Storm, it worked to the Panthers advantage as they began to take the home crowd out of the game.

Manchester have been victims of their own downfall in recent games as penalty trouble was rearing it’s ugly head and saw Patrik Valcak sitting for a slashing call and he was soon joined by Cody Cartier who was adjudged to have boarded a Nottingham player on the boards and put the Panthers on a 5 on 3 powerplay. With the home side killing off both penalties, it soon saw Robert Farmer firing the Panthers into a lead with a low drive that beat Clemente at his near post and put the visitors 2-1 in front at the midway point in the game.

Manchester players then tried to appeal for a goal that saw the referee having no interest in it whatsoever and waved off their claims. Nottingham then ran into penalty trouble themselves late on with Waugh picking up a two minute call for holding, when Mario Trubucco was skating in on goal and saw the Panthers defenceman stopping him and pushing him into the net to get the whistle. Things then got worse for the Panthers when the home side squandered a great chance but saw Dimmen pushing the net off and earning himself a delay of game call and had the Storm on a Two-man advantage.

With 1:15 left in the second period, it had Storm back level through a Darian Dziurzynski powerplay goal to make it 2-2 after he put the puck into a gaping net with Paul Phillips and Jack Prince getting assisting before the break. Nottingham were the better side in the second and just couldn’t make their pressure count, with the home side going into the break all square.

Storm coach Omar Pacha then was forced to sit out the rest of the game after a hit to the head saw the player-coach in some discomfort from a mid-ice hit by Brown and saw the home side and fans not happy with the hit. The aftermath saw the coach icing for a shift, before he was forced to bench himself for the rest of the game. Manchester then had the puck in the net from Dziurzynski again, but the referee had blew prior to the puck going in. Both teams had chances to win in it the third period but the home side seemed to be the likeliest to score and with no further goals in regulation or the overtime period, it saw penalties needed to determine a winner.

In the third round of penalty shots it saw the Panthers netting what turned out to be the winning shot as Petr Kalus put it passed Clemente and then saw Pacl denying Trabucco, who seemed to take a bit to long on the puck and had the Nottingham goalie making the decisive save to see the visitors taking the extra point in the contest. Despite the loss though for Manchester it is still another point gained in their Challenge Cup group and sit third behind Sheffield and Nottingham by two points and with a similar deficit with Cardiff below them.

Women's Football: Bronze Heads City to Double

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Manchester City Women 1-0 Birmingham City Ladies

(After Extra Time)

A record crowd of 4,214 watched Manchester City Women completing a league and cup double courtesy of a Lucy Bronze header in Extra time to clinch the Continental Cup against a stubborn and resolute Birmingham City Ladies side 1-0 at the Academy Stadium.

trophy-cele-2Pic taken from: Official Man City website

It saw the rare scenario of the City Women playing the final on their home ground and were big favourites to land their second piece of silverware in a week after claiming the Women’s Super League title last weekend against Chelsea. Birmingham though was no strangers to the this particular final having been beaten on their two previous trips, both against Arsenal Ladies.

City boss Nick Cushing had other matters on his mind too, with the impending birth of his third child and so had an one ear out on that news could it be forthcoming. Play was pretty even to begin with Birmingham not giving an inch to their opponents and saw them having the first effort of the game when a shot from outside the area had Marie Hourihan in a bit trouble, but luckily for home side the shot went waywards of the target.

Both teams were scrapping to gain an advantage in the game, but both were cancelling the other one out with their different styles of play. The home side came close to scoring when a strike by Jennifer Beattie saw the Scottish International effort being saved by Birmingham keeper Ann-Katrin Berger to keep the game level. City began to then edge play and created another chance as Nikita Parris saw her shot saved by Berger again as the former PSG goalie was proving to be thorn in the side for the home side.

At the halfway point of the match it saw the teams going into the break relatively happy, with both teams reasonably pleased as City got some attacking play going their way after a tricky opening ten minute of the game, meanwhile Birmingham will have been happy to go into the locker room 0-0 after coming under some fire by the City forwards. Play in the second half was at best attritional between the two teams as produce a tough midfield battle in the middle of the park, with passing going astray from poor miscommunication and a lack of concentration from the two sides as neither could maintain a flow to their game.

City boss Nick Cushing then made a change to his side, with the introduction of Swedish International Kosovare Asllani to the game as she replaced Nikita Parris who had a tough game. With the game having the feel of a ‘sudden death’ scenario to it with less than twenty minutes to play, it saw Asllani weaving some Swedish magic on the edge of the area to see the Striker free but Berger once more was quick to come out and smother the danger from the City player.

City added some further muscle to their midfield at the expense of Jane Ross who came off for Tessel Middag and saw the game really starting to explode into life in the final ten minutes of normal time. Birmingham were buoyed by keeping the newly crowned league champions scoreless for as long as they were doing and saw them beginning to threaten late on with the contest resembling a basketball game with end to end chances for both sides. City tried to launch one more last attack in the additional minutes, but Referee Rebecca Welsh brought an end to proceedings in normal time and saw extra time needed to split the two teams.

Extra time saw the home side getting closer and closer, as Toni Duggan had an early effort as her shot just flew over the bar and then came what proved to be the winning goal. It came from a Duggan corner that saw Berger rushing out to punch it ahead of the City captain Steph Houghton, but was a bit late and saw Lucy Bronze heading into unguarded net to give the Citizens the lead. In the Second half of extra time it saw Tessel Middag almost doubling the lead for the home side after Kosovare Asllani put in a low ball into the Birmingham penalty box and the Dutch Midfielder’s effort came back off the post and scrambled away from danger.

City held onto their slender lead to complete a league and cup double with the Continental Cup heading back up North after their Women’s Super League title winning exploits last weekend. It proved to be a fantastic day all round for the Manchester City coach Nick Cushing, as he witnessed the birth of his third child later on that evening and was a day to remember for the City head coach.

The Citizens now turn their attentions to the Women’s Champions League game on Thursday against Russian side Zvezda Perm 05 in the First Leg of their Round of 32 tie at the Academy Stadium.