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Women's Champions League: Euro girl power centre stage

N’Abbey Strikers 0 Glasgow City 8

The unlikely setting of Castledawson played host to the 2008 UEFA Women's Champions League winners last night as FCR 2001 Duisburg slipped almost unnoticed into the sleepy Co Londonderry village to begin their bid to qualify for the last 16 of this year's tournament.

The Germans opened their campaign with a comfortable 3-0 win over Slovan Bratislava while hosts Crusaders-Newtownabbey Strikers' chances of grabbing the one qualifying spot all but disappeared with a crushing 8-0 defeat at the hands of Glasgow City.

The Scots scored four goals in each half through Suzanne Lappin, Rachel Corbie (2), Leanne Ross (2) and Clare Gemmell (2) and Katharina Lindner.

Around 200 people huddled into the stand at Moyola Park's newly opened and superbly appointed Mill Meadow headquarters to see the cream of German football strut their stuff on the 4-G pitch against the Slovaks in the curtain-raiser.

Goalkeeper Ursula Holt was a member of the national side that claimed the bronze medals at the Beijing Olympics while striker Inka Grings is the country's all-time leading scorer with a superb 57 goals in 84 international appearances.

It was a far cry from the club's 2008 triumph when 28,000 spectators watched Duisburg hammer Russian side Zvezda 7-1 in the final on their home turf.

The 30-odd German fans who travelled from the continent certainly made themselves heard with a taped version of 'ole, ole, ole' booming into the evening air every time the ball hit the net.

Old-fashioned 1970s style rattles — rather than the vuvuzelas whose drone was a feature of the World Cup in South Africa — provided a more constant din in the first-half which was scoreless, before the ghetto-blaster was turned on three times after the break.

You see the UEFA delegation had made it clear to the local organising committee that vuvuzelas were a ‘no-no' well in advance of the tournament which is run differently from the men's equivalent.

Instead of meeting clubs from the likes of Norway, Azerbaijan, Latvia, and Croatia like our Irish League men's teams, one highly ranked seeded entry, in this case

the Germans, is in each of groups giving the minnows at least one plum game.

“Everything has been done very meticulously at UEFA's request and that's something we welcome — they expect it to be a very professional operation,.” said Striker's Marketing Officer Roisin McFeeley.

“What impressed me is that the women's competition is run the same as the men's Champions League — rules are rules and they have to be strictly adhered to.

“For example the UEFA delegates weren't too happy when a photographer and TV cameraman went on to the pitch to take photographs and footage before the first game.”

Castledawson has never seen the like of it before — well maybe not since Moyola Park lifted the Irish Cup back in 1881!

Tomorrow's fixtures: (Ballymena Showgrounds): Slovan Bratislava v Glasgow City (3pm), FCR 2001 Duisburg v Crusaders-Newtownabbey Strikers (6pm).

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