Melbourne City 4-1 Western Sydney Wanderers: Noone stars in A-League rout

By Sports Desk March 26, 2021

Melbourne City won a sixth successive A-League match for the first time in their history as Craig Noone helped dismantle Western Sydney Wanderers 4-1.

In Friday's sole A-League fixture, Noone scored twice and set up Andrew Nabbout's goal as City completed a second-half turnaround.

Bernie Ibini put Western Sydney ahead in the 21st minute, but Noone hit back just after the half-hour.

With the scores level heading into the second half, City came flying out of the blocks and had their reward when Nabbout turned in Noone's brilliant cross.

Noone doubled his tally of goals in the competition three minutes later, Nabbout returning the favour to tee up the former Cardiff City winger, who drilled home from a tight angle.

City's star player created eight chances before making way in the 83rd minute, one shy of this season's tally of nine prior to the match, and Jamie Maclaren's excellent half-volley rounded off the victory late on.

Maclaren has now scored 12 goals this season, netting in each of his past six appearances, with City leapfrogging Western Sydney and Adelaide United into second place.

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  • From the streets of St Ann to Lisbon: Jody Brown’s first pro contract with Benfica the pinnacle of an inspiring journey From the streets of St Ann to Lisbon: Jody Brown’s first pro contract with Benfica the pinnacle of an inspiring journey

     

    To say that Jody Brown’s signing of her first professional contract with Portuguese women’s top-flight club, SL Benfica, is a milestone achievement for both her career and Jamaican football would be a great understatement.

    Not only will she be the first player from Jamaica or elsewhere in the Caribbean to parade her skills for the club, which is one of Europe’s most prestigious setups, but she will also realize a lifelong dream on a journey that started on the streets of Lime Hall, St Ann, where she honed her skills with a makeshift ball and an insatiable passion for the game.

    It was during that time when she rubbed shoulders with the boys in her community that her talent quickly became evident, resulting in her inclusion in local teams and, eventually, Jamaica’s national programme.

    Now, the 22-year-old takes a significant step forward in her career with the three-year move to Benfica, where her athleticism and nippy footwork will certainly be an asset.

    “Signing with Benfica is a dream come true," Brown told SportsMax.TV, the pride and emotion evident in her tone.

    Brown puts pen to paper

    “I remember when I just started playing football with the boys in my community, I always aspired to play professionally, and to do so with a club like Benfica is an incredible honour. It’s a nice club, with a lot of history and I always strived to ensure that whichever club I join is one where I can improve and develop my game at a different level. So I’m really excited to join Benfica and can’t wait to get started,” she declared.

    Brown's rise in football has been somewhat meteoric, as she first captured international attention at the Under-15 level and she hasn’t looked back since.

    In fact, Brown is one of only a few players who have so far represented the country at all four levels — Under-15, Under-17, Under-20 and now the senior level. And she has done so with distinction, as she played a crucial role in Jamaica's historic qualification for the 2019 and 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cups.

    "Being a part of Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz has been an amazing experience. It's where I learned to handle pressure and developed my game against some of the best players in the world and I can say that those experiences have prepared me for this next step in my career,” she shared.

    “If I should attribute my rise to this level to anything, I would say it is a testament of all the hard work, dedication, and support from my family, coaches, and teammates over the years,” added Brown, who recently assisted Florida State University to the NCAA Division 1 Women's Championship and their retention of the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship title last season.

    Brown shares the occasion with former Reggae Girlz Head coach Hue Menzies.

    Standing at a shade over 5ft 2in, Brown’s physical presence is by no means imposing, but when the ball is at her feet, she is bound to cause all kinds of problems. It is that explosiveness and the ease at which she glides past opponents on occasions that will make the Reggae Girlz winger a key factor at SL Benfica.

    Beyond that, Brown, who has a Bachelor's degree in Humanities, believes the club’s strong commitment to developing talent, coupled with the fact that the Portuguese league is known for its technical style of play, provides the perfect environment for her to continue her growth.

    “The opportunity to train and play at such a high level is something I'm really looking forward to as I always aim to grow more as a player and a person, so I can't wait to learn from my new teammates and coaches and to contribute to the team's success. Benfica has a fantastic reputation, and I'm excited to be part of this club's journey,” she noted.

    ⁠Still, Brown is aware that adjusting to live in Portugal and her club will by no means be easy, but she remains grounded and focused, with a stubborn determination to make a positive impact both on and off the field.

    Benfica, the current champions of Portugal, will be involved in Champions League football next season.

    “⁠I’m just ready to get settled and hopefully achieve all the goals of the team. I’m ready to adapt in every way possible because that’s a part of the journey of wanting to be the best person or player in an environment where you are not afraid to be yourself. I know what I’m capable of doing and I’m just going to continue learning and improving,” the soft-spoken player said with an air of confidence.

    Brown shows off her team scarf.

    Meanwhile, former Reggae Girlz Head coach Hue Menzies, who along with Lorne Donaldson, Andrew Price and others were instrumental in Brown’s move from Jamaica to an overseas university, pointed out that her signing is not only a personal achievement, but also a significant moment for Jamaican women's football.

    For him, it highlights the growing opportunities for talented players from the island to make their mark on the global stage, as he expressed optimism that Brown’s success will serve as an inspiration to young footballers in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

    “It shows that with talent and determination, they too can reach the pinnacle of the sport. We knew she was going to be a special player, so we invested the effort to get her through the process, because she was only 14, so we had to get her acclimated academically and then get her into the youth club system.

    “From there, we got her into high school academically and then having opportunities to go to a four-year school immediately after and into a really good programme at Florida State where she won two national titles, and four conference titles and she's now becoming a professional player,” Menzies explained.

    “So everything that we kind of set forward for her has come through so far, and we are very optimistic that she will continue. We can't take credit for Jody’s football development because she is a natural, we just assisted in the environment that we set got her in, and then she took it from there with the goals that she set for herself,” he ended. 

     

  • Poland to make late decision on Lewandowski inclusion v Austria Poland to make late decision on Lewandowski inclusion v Austria

    Poland head coach Michal Probierz remains unsure if Robert Lewandowski will be able to start Friday's Euro 2024 clash with Austria.

    Lewandowski missed Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in Poland's Group D opener after injuring his thigh in his side's final warm-up game.

    The Barcelona striker was always expected to miss that game but was given a chance of playing against Austria in Berlin after taking part in team training.

    Probierz confirmed on the eve of the crucial showdown that "all players" are available, but could not say whether Lewandowski will start.

    "There is a big difference if you have best player in the world on the bench or you have him on the pitch," Probierz told reporters. 

    "We will make a decision later today. I hope the decision is positive and I hope I can select him tomorrow. We still don't know. 

    "I am waiting for the medical team to take the decision. Practically all players will appear in training and a decision will be taken after that.”

    Lewandowski has made more appearances (150) and scored more goals (82) for Poland than any other player.

  • Southgate's flawed thinking puts England's Euro 2024 progress on ice Southgate's flawed thinking puts England's Euro 2024 progress on ice

    England have a track record of not being at their best in the second matches of major tournaments.

    At Euro 2020, Scotland held out for a goalless draw at Wembley. At the 2022 World Cup, it was the United States who frustrated the Three Lions in a 1-1 draw.

    In Frankfurt on Thursday, at Euro 2024, it was Denmark's turn. Harry Kane's opener was cancelled out by Morten Hjolmund's long-range stunner.

    Yet this was an England performance that has been long in the making, and their manager Gareth Southgate must shoulder plenty of the blame.

    England headed into Euro 2024 as one of the favourites, but on the evidence of their first two matches, then barring flashes, that tag is definitely not befitting.

    In the end, England could arguably be considered as being fortunate to come away with a point. The Danes accumulated 0.58 expected goals to the Three Lions' 0.36 in the second half, and looked the more likely to score even if they didn't truly test Jordan Pickford.

    England did take the draw, which sees them stay top of Group C, albeit they missed the chance to secure passage into the last 16 as group winners.

    With four points, they should progress, but there is no guarantee on which of the top three places they will take, and Southgate has plenty of food for thought.

    But under Southgate, England have now failed to win 13 games in which they led at some stage, losing five of those.

    What can he do to change track?

     

    TAA in midfield should come to an end

    The Trent Alexander-Arnold experiment must stop. He is not a midfielder.

    This is a prime example of Southgate's flawed thinking. Alexander-Arnold is a world-class player, but he is a full-back who needs the freedom to drift infield - he is not a midfielder. Indeed, at times during his 54 minutes on the pitch, he resembled a spare part.

    That being said, Southgate will likely point to the numbers: Alexander-Arnold created three chances, a team-high, played five line-breaking passes and registered an 87.5 per cent passing accuracy, while also attempting two crosses.

    But there is a severe lack of balance in that area of the field, and it is skewing the entirety of England's system.

    Southgate's attempt to address that was by bringing on Conor Gallagher, who is a busy box-to-box presence, but does not solve the issue of balance. Jude Bellingham drops deep to get on the ball, but with Phil Foden stationed out wide, there is nobody dropping into the '10 spot' with regularity.

    Get Kane involved

    A move away from 4-2-3-1, which has seemingly been introduced to get the best out of Bellingham as a number 10, might in turn benefit Kane.

    The Bayern Munich star, fresh from scoring 44 goals for the Bundesliga giants, showed his clinical edge with the only chance he got, but that was the sole touch he managed in Denmark's box.

    His tally of 22 touches was two fewer than England's captain managed against Serbia (24), and he found himself hauled off in a bizarre triple change around the 70th minute.

    Southgate threw on Ollie Watkins as Kane's replacement, but why not try the two together? 

    Kane's opener was his fifth goal at the Euros, making him the first England player and eighth player overall to score five or more goals at both the men's World Cup and the European Championship. How can you take such a threat off with the match poised at 1-1?

    Jarrod Bowen and Eberechi Eze were the other substitutes handed a chance - they hardly struck fear into Denmark's defence. Anthony Gordon, a winger truly capable of stretching the opposition and offering England a threat down the left, was left on the bench, as was Cole Palmer, the Premier League's Young Player of the Season. Jack Grealish and Marcus Rashford didn't make the squad, of course.

    Bowen and Eze contributed just 22 touches between them; neither of the duo created a chance, nor had a shot.

    Food for thought on Foden

    If Foden is going to start for England, then it has to be in a central role.

    His best work is done in the middle of the pitch, which is increasingly crowded, and, with Kieran Trippier playing left-back, Foden is too often isolated if he tries to operate out on the flank. As it is, Foden is operating in a halfway house, and not fulfilling either role particularly well.

     

    But the 24-year-old was England's most effective attacker on Thursday. He had the most shots (four), and was desperately unlucky to strike the post with one of them, which came after he drifted over into a more central position.

    Too often, though, he was out wide with little support. He did not have a single touch in the attacking third in the width of the six-yard box, and while Denmark did an admirable job defensively, there is so much more to come.

    Foden has to improve, yet this system and tactics are simply coming nowhere near close to getting the best out of him.

    And that is one of several problems Southgate, who has done so much good work during his tenure, must solve. As it stands, he does not look like the manager best suited to coaching this squad of superstars.

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