Manchester City Women 1 – 1 Birmingham City Ladies
57′ Bronze 13′ Westwood
Manchester City needed a Lucy Bronze equaliser to help see them and their opponents Birmingham City ending honours even in as they sides meet in ten days time in the Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley on 13th May. Once again it needed Manchester City’s England International Lucy Bronze to come to their rescue and pick up a point in the 1-1 draw with Birmingham City Ladies in the opening WSL Spring Series contest for the Sky Blues.
The home side saw boss Nick Cushing giving a start to England’s under-17 goalie Ellie Roebuck and also hand a start to Dutch midfielder Tessel Middag, as it was a very much different looking line up to the previous ones that have started in recent games and was giving some playing time too.
City could easily have been in front after just seventeen seconds gone on the clock, after Carli Lloyd latched onto a poorly hit back pass by Aoife Mannion towards her keeper and saw the American pushing the ball passed Ann-Katrin Berger in the Birmingham goal and then putting her effort into the side netting.
That chance was really as good as it got for the home side in the opening forty-five minutes of the play, with the home side struggling to put passes together and were very disjointed in their attacks and lacking cohesion as well, which stifled anything in the way of attacks in the first period.
Birmingham then took a surprised lead on 13 minutes into the game, after Emily Westwood guided her header past Roebuck in the Manchester City goal from a Coral-Jade Haines corner kick and that put the Midlands side one up with their first effort on goal.
After going a goal down, it saw the home side recovering well without having really caused the Birmingham defence to press the panic buttons. The home side really lacked any attacking threat going forward and saw most of their attacks undone by themselves, with poor passing and a lack of cutting edge to their play.
A very unexcitable first half drew to a close thankfully, with the away side still leading by a solitary goal to nil and had neither side really looking like scoring from open play and if anything, it had Birmingham looking more likely to score again when they had a corner kick.
With the second half getting underway, it saw the home side looking to get back into the contest and they did on 57 minutes, as Birmingham’s nemesis last season in the Continental Cup Final in Lucy Bronze levelled the contest at one all.
It saw the England defender and recently named PFA Women’s Player of the Year making a run into the Birmingham penalty box and then firing the ball into the far corner to make it 1-1.
Nick Cushing then made all his subs in the space of seven minutes apart, with firstly Georgia Stanway being replaced by Jane Ross immediately from the restart and then Kosovare Asllani and Jennifer Beattie being subbed on 65 minutes, for Jill Scott and returning to the squad after a long lay off in Irish International Megan Campbell.
As previously stated at the start, these two teams will contest the Women’s FA Cup Final a week on Saturday at Wembley Stadium with neither side giving ground or showing how they may play in the Cup Final.
Credit to Birmingham though, they did what a lot of other sides have been unable to, or just refused to do all and was to attack the home side and by doing so made it an interesting and entertaining too.
The home side grew into the contest and was putting their opponents under some severe pressure as the game ticked down inside the last ten minutes of the contest. Jane Ross firstly saw her effort from a tight angle being stopped by the keeper and somehow saw a loose rebounded scrambled away, with Lloyd nearly netting.
City’s best chance then fell two minutes from time from Carli Lloyd again, as this time the midfielder had the ball come nicely to her and her blast struck Berger in the chest and away from danger, when it really should have been buried by the Star player.
Overall a draw was probably the fairest result for both sides, with arguably the home side edging play in the second half, but with the Cup final in a couple weeks times it saw both teams relatively play with their performances.
Nick Cushing’s side play two away games before they meet Birmingham again at Wembley, with Reading away on Sunday and then followed by Bristol City Women on the Tuesday night.
Belle Vue saw their unbeaten home record going up in smoke on Bank Holiday Monday, with the visitors in the Somerset Rebels inflicting a 46-44 loss on the Aces in front of a bumper crowd at the National Speedway Stadium.
The Rebels made their first ever visit up to Manchester in their short history, with the teams having never met in any competition before. It saw the Westcountry side hoping to pick up some much need points, with the Somerset outfit bottom of the table early doors in the standings.
It also saw both teams forced into using guest riders in the meeting, as Danish riders Kenneth Bjerre and Patrick Hougaard were away riding in the opening round of the Speedway Euro Championship (SEC) in Torun, Poland. That meant that Lee Payne and Rob Shuttleworth of the Belle Vue Colts both stepped in for either side to see a full line-up.
Australian Rohan Tungate shown his liking for the Manchester track once again in the meeting, with the Rebels number one taking the opening race win ahead of fellow countryman Max Fricke as the Aces man was unable to gain ground on his opposite number.
Jake Allen and Jan Gravensen put the away ahead with an easy 5-1 to their name in the reserves race, as the Rebels led 8-4 early on. Paul Starke then produced a stunning pass to see him round the Aces pairing of Steve Worrall and Justin Sedgmen in heat three, as he turned a 5-1 against into a 3-3 and see a share of the points.
Belle Vue then got out on a 5-1 with Craig Cook and Jack Smith in heat four, but with Josh Grajczonek having far more speed then Smith had, it saw the Belle Vue captain forced to ride off and get the win and score the win for hosts and collect their first heat advantage of the match.
Sedgmen and Worrall then made a good gate with Rohan Tungate right behind them in heat five and that saw the Aussie easily steaming under Steve Worrall to take second place, and saw him having Sedgmen in his sights but wasn’t able to catch him in a 4-2 heat win and make it 15-15 after five races.
Max Fricke and Craig Cook then picked up race wins in heats six and seven, but they were cancelled out with the visitors packing the minor places. Somerset brought in Jake Allen for Rob Shuttleworth as a reserve change and it brought instant dividends with a 5-1 for the Rebels and lead 26-22.
Three shared heats saw the visitors holding a four point lead still in the contest, but Cook and Tungate then had a cracking race with the riders swapping places on every lap, before the Rebels man held his nerve and had the speed on Cook to take the race win.
Charles Wright and Jake Allen then extended the lead for the away side in heat twelve, by way of a 4-2 to Somerset and moved six points clear at 33-39 with three races left to go. Belle Vue desperately needed a big win in heat thirteen to get back in the match and was hoping of repeating their previous heroics against Leicester weeks before.
Sadly though for the Aces, Rohan Tungate wasn’t going to oblige and saw him lead from start to finish with the Belle Vue duo unable to get any speed from the track and have a 3-3 which effectively spelt game over.
Heat fourteen saw Justin Sedgmen and Dan Bewley giving the hosts a glimmer of hope of a gaining a point at least in the final race of the meeting, after they recorded a 4-2 to see the Aces first heat advantage since heat five.
Aces boss Mark Lemon put in Max Fricke and Craig Cook to try and salvage a draw for the home side in the final race, but they knew Tungate was the danger man in the race. Belle Vue then made a great start as they gated on on a 5-1, but with the home riders coming under severe pressure by the Rebel’s man, it saw him finally moving into second place on the final lap to deny the hosts of a draw from the match.
In truth the home side didn’t deserve a point from the meeting, after their opponents battled all match and shown that they were not cannon fodder despite being bottom of the table. Credit to Somerset for a fantastic team performance and this defeat for the Aces will have been a case of needing to refocus.
Belle Vue = 44 1. Max Fricke 2, 3, 3, 1′, 3 = 12+1 2. Lee Payne (G) 1′, 0, 1, 0 = 2+1 3. Steve Worrall 1′, 1, 2, 2 = 6+1 4. Justin Sedgmen 2, 3, 1′, 3 = 9+1 5. Craig Cook 3, 3, 2, 2, 1 = 11 6. Dan Bewley 1, R, 1′, 1 = 3+1 7. Jack Smith 0, 1, 0, 0 = 1
Anthony Joshua beat the future Hall of Famer Wladimir Klitschko with an eleventh round stoppage at Wembley Stadium this past Saturday, to see him adding the IBF and WBA title belts to his collect in what was a incredible fight between two warriors in the ring and of the all time classic world heavyweight bouts in history too.
The fight saw a record crowd of 90,000 fans packing the home of football for what was an anticipated meeting between the old guard and the new generation, with no few than four knockdowns and a see-saw clash for the IBF, IBO and WBA world heavyweight titles at Wembley Stadium.
Both fighters came out a bit conservative to start off with and not showing the other their hand so to speak in this unification bout, but both boxers landed a couple of jabs and hooks now and then, as it was very much a feeling out process in the opening round with Joshua landing more of the jabs.
At the start of the second round it saw the Ukrainian throwing some good punches and brought a mark under the eye of the British fighter, as Klitschko was certainly the aggressor in the round early part. Joshua though came back at his rival late on and caught his opponent with a couple of hefty punches himself too in the final minute.
Wembley Stadium was rocking with the noise from the home fans cheering their fellow countryman on, and it was first heavyweight title fight since Frank Bruno won the WBC title against Oliver McCall back in 1995. The fight was very evenly poised with a scientific start with neither man wanting to commit too early in the bout and get caught.
‘AJ’ came flying out of his corner in the third, with the IBF champion starting out strongly much like his opponent had done in the previous round and saw him landing some d ecent shots on rival to begin with.
Klitschko though seemed to take the shots that were coming in from Joshua, but you could see that the man nicknamed ‘Dr Steelhammer’ wasn’t comfortable when he was under pressure. Joshua was clearly having the better of the early rounds and saw him not making too many mistakes, if any, against a very savvy veteran in his opponent.
After three rounds of boxing it saw the Brit seemingly on top in the fight at that point in time, but Klitschko then seemed to stun AJ with a hard right hand and followed it up with a left hook, that saw Joshua being caught and needed the man from Watford to defend a bit better.
The fifth round was certainly not one for the boxing purists in attendance, as both fighters seemed to forget the art of defence and were just swinging hell for leather and saw Joshua putting his rival down to the canvas with a few combination shots.
Klitschko was knocked down to the canvas for the first time since 2005 when he faced Nigerian Samuel Peters and the Ukrainian picked himself back up and got back into the fight.
After being knocked down for the first time in 12 years, it saw drama to the second half of the round, with Klitschko coming back after Joshua had almost tired himself out looking for a knockout and now the British fighter was needing to try and see out the round and was deep deep trouble.
AJ was literally holding on to try and see out the round, after he was out on his feet from taking some solid shots from Klitschko and had Joshua now teetering on a possible stoppage.
The home fans bellowed out ‘Oh Anthony Joshua’ to the tune of White Stripes song ‘Seven Nation Army’. Wladimir Klitschko was then trying to measure his shots and it could be argued that his approach on his then tired opponent would cost him later on.
After a stunning fifth round where it looked like Joshua was going to finish the job and then somehow saw Klitschko then on the verge of victory himself, it made for a fascinating and exciting second half to this heavyweight contest.
Klitschko used his boxing brain in the sixth and looked to have far more gas in the tank than say that of his opponent, with AJ looking still weary from the previous round and saw Joshua hitting the deck after a beautiful right hand caught Joshua flush in the face and send the IBF champion down to he canvas for the second time in his career.
Joshua was clearly now in survival mode and had Klitschko buoyed by the knockdown and was able to just getting at his opponent a bit more through his jabs. As the round ticked away, it saw Joshua in all kinds of trouble and was forced to cover up again and try to recovery quickly.
Round seven saw the home fighter breathing a bit heavier in the contest and that fifth round seemed to have taken a lot of Joshua, and with the British fighter having never gone past seven rounds before, it was clear that he would need to show a lot of character and grit if he was force his way back in to this fight.
Klitschko now had his opponent right where he wanted him for the taking and saw the home crowd trying to will their man on and help get him back into the contest, having been out of sorts in the previous couple of rounds.
The Ukrainian now was on the front foot and saw him landing with his trademarks jabs and leave his opponent struggling to keep them out and have Klitschko content. It did feel almost like he was setting him up for a possible knockout punch as Joshua was still a bit stunned from the last two rounds.
In the eighth round, the 41-year old Ukrainian continued to use the jab on Joshua and having his opponent still trying dig some reserves back for a recovery, and late in the round it saw AJ letting his opponent know that he could still come back as he landed a good shot.
As we moved toward the ‘Championship rounds’ of the contest, it saw Joshua catching his opponent with a couple of good punches but saw Klitschko able to soak up the blows, as there wasn’t much venom in the strikes.
Prior to round ten it had the scorecards around the boxing fraternity at ringside all in favour of the elder statesman by a couple of points and continued to work behind the jabs, with the IBF champion showing glimpses now and then mounting a comeback.
Both men were gutting it out and showing their warrior instincts in this bout, with some clean punches being landed by both fighters and seeing the fight swaying one way and then other and making it hard to predict who would come out on top.
When the bell rang to signal the start of round eleven, it saw Joshua getting his second wind and come out swinging and have Klitschko in early some trouble and surprised everyone, not least Klitschko, who seemed to have the upper hand in the second part of the fight.
Joshua had weathered the storm of the past few rounds and now with some new found energy he had found from deep inside, he showed his championship class and threw a fight changing punch to turn the fight in his favour.
AJ from nowhere connected with a beauty of a right uppercut on his opponent and that one punch had Klitschko reeling and stunned badly, which led to Joshua catching him with a few more punches that put him down on the floor for the second time and looked to have swung the fight his direction again.
The man who had dominated world boxing with his brother for overa decade then was sent crashing to the mat a second time almost less than twenty seconds later, and that had the Wembley crowd thinking that the job was done from Joshua, but his rival still had some more fight left in him.
Credit to Klitschko for still hanging in there and refusing to lay down, but the referee stopped the fight with thirty-eight seconds remaining of the round to go and give Anthony Joshua a famous victory over the legendary Wladimir Klitschko to become the new IBO and WBA heavyweight champion of the world.
It brought an end to one of the most dramatic heavyweight fights in history, and will go down as one of the most entertaining championships bout and possibly greatest boxing match in the UK.
After the conclusion of the fight it had an American journalist making the comment seconds after the fight, “We’ve had the Rumble in the Jungle, the Thriller in Manilla and you can add this too as the ‘War at Wembley’.
In 95′ British boxing fans were made up for Frank Bruno when he was finally a world champion and had everyone glad to see that good guys could be champions. Roll on nearly 22 years later, and Anthony Joshua has perhaps taken on the mantle of the new ‘People’s Champ’ tag in British boxing.
Victory for the London 2012 Gold medalist saw him adding the IBF and WBA belts to his IBO version that he already had in his possession, and from going from possible defeat to and getting off the canvas to pick up a stunning win and do in the fashion that he did, it will certain go down for now as his greatest victory on his impressive resume.
It was truly one of the most incredible fights seen at Heavyweight for some time and with all the negativity of heavyweight boxing over the last 20 years and at times well deserved, this one fight alone shown that their a new era possibly for the sport to come back and grab people’s attention again.
Anthony Joshua spoke to Sky Box Office on his win and said the following; “19-0 and three years into the game. As i said, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying.
Joshua also was quick to praise his opponent too by saying; “As boxing states, you leave your ego at the door and respect your opponent, so massive respect to Wladimir Klitschko for taking part.”
He added “In terms of the boxing arena, he is a hall of famer, a role model and I’ve got nothing but love and respect for him.”
The defeated Wladimir Klitschko received a loud ovation from the 90,000 strong crowd that packed the famous stadium out, and told the fans “I love you too Guys. I hope you all enjoyed the fight. Both fighters were really giving their best. The best man won tonight and it’s an amazing event for boxing.
“Two gentlemen fought each other. I say gentlemen, as boxing came from England, so truly was gentlemen that fought one another. Anthony was truly better than I. It’s really sad that i didn’t make it tonight, as i was planning to do it. But it didn’t work.”
Of course, there could still be a rematch between the two fighters again and if nothing come of that, then it may well have be the final time we see Wladimir Klitschko in a boxing ring. The man dubbed ‘Dr Steelhammer’ has been in the ring since 1996 and fought for 21-years after making his debut in a four-round fight in Hamburg, Germany back in 1996.
Meanwhile, for ‘AJ’ Anthony Joshua it brings new possibilities for the Watford man going forward. As he won’t be short on takers, after the IBF and WBA federations have their mandatory challengers line-up and also have Detonay Wilder interested in facing Joshua too.
Another name to throw in is one Mr Tyson Fury, who him himself beat Klitschko in his last fight over in Germany and could see an all British fight that fans have been interested to see as the two have some history as well.
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.
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.
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.
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.