Lyon give City Women a European masterclass

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Manchester  City Women  1 – 3  Olympique Lyonnais 

Manchester City were given a European footballing lesson by their opponents and current holders Lyon, as the French club out-played, out-classed and out-worked their English counter-parts 3-1 in the first leg of the Women’s Champions League Semi-Final.

Goals by Saki Kumagai, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Eugenie Le Sommer helped the three-time champions of this tournament with a healthy lead to take back across the Channel, and also see Alex Morgan getting the better of her fellow US teammate Carli Lloyd, in the battle of the American superstars.

A big crowd of 3,548 witness Manchester City Women making history, with the Manchester side hosting their first ever Women’s Champions League semi final against Olympique Lyon on a glorious Saturday afternoon, but saw their side struggle against their opponents.

The home side found themselves on the back foot also immediately from kick off, when a clearance by Abbie McManus was needed to avoid the Blues from going behind inside a minute. However from that resulting play, Lyon was then awarded a penalty for a handball of City’s Carli Lloyd, as the ball struck the American’s arm in the penalty box and gave the visitors a chance of an early lead.

Saki Kumagai then stepped up for the visitors to take the penalty and send Karen Bardsley the wrong way from the spot, and draw first blood to the French side after just two minutes into the game.

With Lyon looking like they could run riot early on with a wave of attack after attack on the home sides goal, it saw the Blues then finding an equaliser with their first attack in the game through Swedish forward Kosavare Asllani. After a delightful weighted through ball by Toni Duggan put in Asllani to run through on goal and find the back of the net on nine minutes, to net her first Champions League goal with City.

The first half felt like the pitch was on the proverbial slope with Lyon, as the visitors laid siege to the City goal, with the French side controlling play with their accurate passing and attacking threat. With all the play in the City half and the home side being pinned in their own half, it was only a matter of time before the visitors made another breakthrough.

That breakthrough then came in the form of a Dzsenfier Marozsen effort on sixteen minutes, when the German national captain bent her shot past the keeper for a 2-1 lead and was certainly deserved.

City knew coming into this semi final clash that it was a tall order to beat Lyon, especially when the French side are the current holders and have also played in five of the seven previous Women’s Champions League finals to date. So to say that Lyon were a level above anyone else that the Blues had faced so far in the tournament, would be a massive understatement. 

As the teams headed into the half time break with the French side holding a 2-1 lead, it will have had both managers fairly happy with their sides respective first half displays. The away side could easily have been out of sight in the opening 45 minutes of play, but credit to City, as they put in a battling defensive display to halt a very dangerous outfit.

Lyon pressed for more goals in the second half, and the visitors own American superstar in Alex Morgan then found herself having a chance to increase the lead, but was she was denied brilliantly by Karen Bardsley.

As the game hit the midway point of the second half, it saw the visitors adding a third goal to the scoresheet, as Eugenie Le Sommer scored a very taken goal to put the visitors 3-1 up and possibly end the hopes early of the English Champions in the tie.

Both sides were putting in some meaty tackles on another, but pretty much all of the challenges were hard and fair, but some did stray on the side of fouls and bookable offences.

The hosts were unable to combat the very physical and quick play that the away side was showing in the contest, which is one reason why the home side was being picked apart in the engine room by the current holders, as Lyon shown their class and what it takes to win at this level. 

City boss Nick Cushing then brought on Izzy Christiansen and Georgia Stanway inside the final ten minutes of play, and that saw the home side enjoying without doubt their best spell in the game.

Abby McManus almost pulled a goal back for the home side, when the defender got the slightest of touches on a cross at the near post and had the Lyon keeper scrambling to push it onto the post, before being cleared away.

With the home side playing some good football late in the day, it just came at the wrong time and had the Blues unable to break down the strong French side. As the full time whistle blew, it sees the Blues with a huge mountain to climb in France next weekend, but they are by no means out of the tie yet. 


City Book Wembley Final Ticket

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Manchester City Women prevailed in their Women’s FA Cup semi final meeting with Liverpool on Sunday, thanks mainly to a Melissa Lawley second half strike that helped her the Blues place at Wembley on May 13th and set up another meeting with her former club Birmingham City Ladies in the showpiece final next month.  

Last season in this competition it saw Manchester City Women beating their opponents from Merseyside 2-0 away in the fifth round, and also had the Reds being the only team to not lose to Nick Cushing’s side in the Women’s Super League as they drew both games. 

The City Head Coach Nick Cushing has almost made it a priority to try and land the Women’s FA Cup this season, as after two Continental Cup successes in the last three seasons, and then throw in the league title from last year too, the FA Cup remains the only domestic trophy that the club haven’t lifted. 

Liverpool almost took a surprised lead after three minutes played, when Kate Longhurst had her cross-come-shot striking the outside of the near post and nearly caught out Karen Bardsley in the City goal.

Mel Lawley then had the first real chance of the game after quarter of the game gone, when the ball fell to Birmingham-born midfielder in the box and Lawley could only fire straight at Siobhan Chamberlain in the visitors goal and see a chance missed.

The home side began to up the pressure on their opponents a bit more with a couple of more attacks that didn’t really come to anything, but credit the visiting Liverpool side who did a good job of breaking up play when the hosts got forward in the opening half.

Lawley then weaved some of her magic to put a teasing ball into the Liverpool penalty area for Jill Scott to get onto the end off, but the midfielder was just out of reach to make any connection on the cross. Shanice Van de Senden for the the away side was causing City a couple of problems with her pace and power down the right flank, but the Blues defensive unit was more than capable to keep the forward quiet as the game went on.

With the half time break seeing the the teams deadlocked at 0-0, it would be fair to say that the contest as a whole wasn’t the most exciting one, but it was still anyone’s to win in the second forty-five. The Blues came out far more attacking minded and began to make some inroads on their opponents, after Jane Ross and Melissa Lawley both had chances to put the home side ahead, but both were unable to find the finish.

Then with fifty-seven minutes gone on the clock, it saw the game finally getting a goal and had Manchester City’s Mel Lawley giving the home side the lead, after the winger saw her shot from outside the area beating Chamberlain in the Liverpool goal and giving City a deserved 1-0 lead. 

Carli Lloyd almost doubled the lead for the hosts minutes later, when the American turned and fired a shot on goal and needed a good stop by the keeper to deny the City player a goal and keep her side in the game.

Liverpool was finding it extremely difficult to break the home sides defences down and saw a lack of match fitness beginning to take their toll on them. The Reds were unable to register a real threatening shot in the game, and it soon saw the home side looking to use their sharper legs to bomb forwards and look to seal the win.

Toni Duggan came on as a substitute for the home side and began to inject some much needed pace to the home side’s attacking play, as Lloyd went close once again, as this time she wasn’t able to keep her header down from a deep ball to the back post by Lawley. 

The Blues held on in the dying minutes of the contest to to book their maiden Women’s FA Cup final appearance on May 13th against Birmingham City Ladies, as the Midlands side shocked Chelsea Ladies on penalties in the other semi final. City will start as clear favourites as you would expect for the final, but Birmingham are no easy touches by any means.

It was Birmingham who pushed City all the way last year in the Continental Cup Final, before a Lucy Bronze strike proved to be the difference in extra time and give the Sky Blues the trophy on that occasion.

With a Cup final at Wembley to look forward too, it has the Blues firstly thought switching attention to this weekend as they welcome the holders of the Women’s Champions League in Olympique Lyonnais to the City Academy Stadium for the first leg of their semi-final tie on Saturday.

Bjerre Maximum gives Aces revenge on Wolves

(TAKEN FROM ‘A Track With A ‘VUE’):

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Belle Vue gained a small measure of revenge on their Grand Final opponents from last year’s playoff in the Wolverhampton Wolves, as Danish rider Kenneth Bjerre led the way with a 15 point maximum as the Aces took victory in a 54-38 win over the West Midlands outfit in front of a big crowd at the National Speedway Stadium this past Good Friday. 

Early morning showers had hit Manchester hours before the meeting was due to take place and that saw the ‘liquid sunshine’ of Manchester causing the track to be a bit troublesome for the riders early on. A good crowd had swelled the stadium for the encounter between two of British speedway’s heavyweights and considering the miserable conditions overhead, it saw the fans treated to some good racing at the track.

It saw the visitors opening up the meeting with a 5-1 courtesy of local lad Kyle Howarth and Swede Freddie Lindgren, as the fans that had travelled up from the Black Country cheered their opening success on the terraces and in truth that was as good as it got for the reigning League Champions.

Belle Vue hit right back through Dan Bewley and Jack Smith in the reserves race, as the Aces pairing both flew away from the tapes and demonstrated some impressive team riding skills to keep the Wolves riders behind them and fill them both in with the wet dirt causing the away side riders to be no danger at all.

Kenneth Bjerre then started how he meant to go on in the match, with the Denmark International taking the chequered flag ahead of a fast Jacob Thorssell from the Wolves side and had team mate Justin Sedgmen securing third spot for the home side to complete a 4-2 heat advantage for Belle Vue.

The next four races brought a share of the points with successive 3-3’s being raced out between the two, but saw the Aces still holding a slender two-point lead as the meeting hit the half way mark.


After a bit of a delay with some track grading going on and trying to make it a bit easier for the riders and give them more lines to race on than the middle of the track, it saw the immediate heats afterwards giving the Aces a big advantage and came on fire for the rest of the match.

Steve Worrall and Jack Smith started the ball rolling with a 4-2 win in Heat 8 and that was quickly followed up by a superb ride by Aussie Justin Sedgmen in the next race, with the Aces man blocking off the fast paced Sam Masters from the visitors and needed eyes in the back of his head to see where his former Edinburgh teammate was for the whole race. Bjerre meanwhile quietly went about his business and claimed his third heat win of the afternoon to see the home side picking up a 5-1 and extending their lead to 31-23.

Max Fricke and Steve Worrall repeated the feat in Heat 10, with Belle Vue now finding their groove and was finally beginning to put some space between themselves and Wolverhampton side with another 5-1 and have the Wolves boss Peter Adams playing the ‘tactical ride’ in the next race. 

With Craig Cook going off gate two where there had been no winner all afternoon, plus with youngster Dan Bewley who had only scored 3 from his opening two rides compared to Lindgren and Howarth, it saw this race seemingly being certain of a good Wolverhampton heat advantage. 

However, speedway meetings aren’t raced on paper and with Lindgren going for double points it saw the Swede battling hard with Craig Cook for the whole race and was similar to their last outing against each other in the grand final, when Lindgren on that occasion was ruthless on Cook and nearly took him out and had riders almost coming to blows.

This time though it saw cooler heads and despite the Wolves man going hard again on Cook entering the final lap, it saw the ‘Cookie Monster’ wiser that before and managed to cut back up the inside of the Swede to retake the lead entering the third and fourth bend to win the race and have Bewley getting third place too, which saw a 4-4 shared heat and negated the score.

Heat 12 saw Bjerre then demonstrating his team riding abilities for the team, as he helped young Master Smith around the track for another 5-1 and sealed victory for the Aces with three races still left to run. Freddie Lindgren then popped out of the start in the battle of the big guns in Heat 13, as saw the Swede taking the race win ahead of Cook and Fricke who both realised they were not going to catch the Wolverhampton man and saw a share of the spoils.

Jacob Thorssell then earned his place in the final race of the match with a heat win in the penultimate race of the day, but the final word belonged to Kenneth Bjerre, who blasted his way out of the starting gate and was able to hold off stern challenges by Thorssell and Lindgren in the closing stages to complete his maximum in the meeting.

The victory puts Belle Vue top of the table for now and sees the sides renewing acquaintances at Monmore Green on Tuesday night and will give the Aces a chance to put in a better performance than their last outing there, to which saw the Manchester side effectively blowing their title hopes on that occasion.

For the here and now, Belle Vue are looking a very good side early doors and will have pleased the Team Manager and Director of the club in Mark Lemon and the new owners too and will be hoping that this side will continue on this rich vain of form for the foreseeable future as well.   

 Belle Vue Aces = 54

1. Max Fricke – R,2,3,1* = 6+1

2. Steve Worrall – 1,1*,3,2* = 7+2

3. Kenneth Bjerre – 3,3,3,3,3 = 15 FULL MAXIMUM

4. Justin Sedgmen – 1,0,2*,2 = 5+1

5. Craig Cook – 2,3,3,2,0 = 10

6. Dan Bewley. – 3,0,1,1* = 5+1

7. Jack Smith – 2*,1*,1,2* = 6+3

Wolverhampton Wolves = 38

1. Fredrik Lindgren – 2*,1*,4^,3,2 = 12+2

2. Kyle Howarth – 3,2,2,0 = 7

3. Adam Skornicki – 0,2,EF,R = 2

4. Jacob Thorssell – 2,1*,1,3,1* = 8+2

5. Sam Masters – 3,3,1,0 = 7

6. Max Clegg – 1,0,0,1 = 2

7. Nathan Greaves – 0,0,0,0 = 0

Devils make Final Four at Storm’s expense

Manchester Storm   1  –  3   Cardiff Devils (Cardiff win 6-3 on agg)

Manchester Storm saw their 2016/17 season come to an end on Sunday night, after the Grand Slam chasing Cardiff Devils booked their place in the final four at Nottingham this upcoming weekend with a 6-3 aggregate win over the Storm to make it through to the Elite League finals.

Following a battling 3-2 loss down in South Wales the night before, it saw the Storm hoping to make it to their first finals weekend since the club formed last year. Cardiff who are the newly crowned Elite League champions and Challenge Cup took a one goal advantage lead with them to Altrincham and hoped to take another step towards a clean sweep of all the major honours this season.

The game was played typically at a playoff type pace and saw the intensity far higher than a normal league game too. Both sides were pretty even early on in the game and had neither team really able to have any kind of upper hand on their opponent.

Manchester levelled the tie at 8.21 into the first period and had a noisy and boisterous home crowd almost taking the roof off in the process. Storm’s Darian Dziurzynski fired home his 30th goal of the year and gave the home side a 1-0 lead and 3-3 overall.

Minutes later though it saw the Devils hitting right back through a Joey Haddad strike at 11.37 after the forward flipped it high over Mike Clemente to draw his side level and grab his second goal of the playoffs and make it 1-1.

Manchester looked a bit rocked by that equalising goal from the Devils, and after letting another lead slip from their grasp against their Welsh opposition in two nights, the League and Cup champions capitalised on their chances to then move 2-1 ahead soon after.

This time it saw Clemente in the Storm goals unable to hold onto a shot that struck him in the chest and the loose puck was fired in by Chris Culligan for a Devils advantage at 18.37 and make the overall score reading 5-3 after one period of hockey.  

Second period saw the Devils controlling the game and not giving up many chances if hardly any for the Storm and was looking very similar to the game played out between the sides just a few weeks back. It saw the Devils shutting down the home side early on in the game and that was pretty much how the theme of the game went on. 

With supporters of both sides making an incredible amount of noise for their respective team and had the rink rocking during the game, it did have a feel of the hometown crowd trying to just spur their team to get back in the game rather than actually overturning the game in truth.

Cardiff made the game look simple and their third goal was a beautifully crafted move that saw Devils player coach Andrew Lord and Sean Bentivoglio combining to set up a tap in for Gleason Fournier at 28.07. From that point on wards the tie was over as a contest with the aggregate at 6-3 but they still had pride to play for in the remaining half hour of the game.

The Devils were on fire and had the home side not needing the visitors to move up the gears in truth and the long season of injuries could clearly been seen to show on the home side. With the Storm having a much smaller bench than that of their opponents and trying as hard as they could to find a way back in the game on the night, the away side were always able to hold them at arms length.

Manchester just couldn’t find any shooting lanes or any holes in Cardiff’s armour to get at them. It saw no joy or goalmouth action for the Storm in the third and final period of the season as Cardiff stay on course to still possible have a sweep of all the trophies this year. 

There was no lack of effort on the home sides part in the contest, but they just came up against a side that is defensively sound and dangerous going forward which is two reasons that has helped them win the double to date. It saw a strange statistic coming on the shots on goal for Manchester, with the Storm posting exactly the same number of shots against the Devils as last time out at home with 23 efforts.