Lloyd and clear
Manchester City midfielder targets Uefa Champions League glory.
The cross came in from Jane Ross. It was met by a bullet header. Fortuna Hjorring 0 Manchester City 1.
Carli Lloyd, World Cup winner, double Olympic Gold medallist and two-time Fifa World Player of the Year, had scored her first City goal.
Anyone who has delivered a hattrick in a World Cup final qualifies as a big-game player and this, for City, was a big game.
It was the opening leg of their first Uefa Champions League quarter-final.
They face the Danish champions again tonight as the only English side left in the competition, looking to join the European superpowers in the last four.
“Who wouldn’t want to play in a quarter-final second leg at home in front of our fans with a place in the semi-finals at stake?” midfielder Jill Scott said.
She has a century of caps for England to her name, but recognised the arrival of Lloyd, a City player until June and a huge figure in the women’s game, is a quantum leap forward even for a side who won two trophies last season.
“I think signing a player like Carli shows the intent of this club,” Scott said. “It is massive.
“Settling into the team that quickly and getting that important goal speaks volumes of her quality but also the influence she has had off the pitch as well, to the younger players as well as the older players.
“She has been a great personality to have around. “Sometimes when a squad has been around for two or three years you need a different personality to come in, you probably start to get sick of each other at times so it has definitely freshened things up.”
Lloyd’s tasks extend from fielding questions about a career that has produced the small matter of 96 international goals for the USA to offering inspiration. She is a role model to both teammates and local girls she coached at this week’s City in the Community event.
“Giving back to these girls is important,” the American said. “One of them was saying I’m her idol and to me that’s priceless. Money can’t buy that.”
Scott illustrated why others admire Lloyd: “She is the kind of person who leads by example with how she plays and how she prepares herself.
“We are definitely all learning from her and I think it will boost everyone else by 10-20 per cent.”
Standards have already been raised.
“Looking back at this journey three years ago, would we have said this would have happened? Probably not,” Scott said.
“Even for Carli to choose this club shows how much work we have put in over the last three years, winning the league, winning the [FA] cup and making this a very attractive club to be at.
“I don’t think there are many female players that would turn down the opportunity to be here.” Lloyd concurred, savouring the facilities at the Etihad Campus.
“This is a world of its own,” Lloyd said. “It’s unbelievable. If I had this at home I would never leave the pitch.” Her signing was a coup for City and while the 34-year-old midfielder has not ruled out returning, an initial spell allows her to realise an ambition. “For me, to take part in the Champions League is something I’ve dreamed of,” she said. “All the stars aligned. It is the perfect fit.”
Her individual excellence brings an obvious comparison for Lloyd, albeit one she modestly downplayed. Is she the female Lionel Messi? “It’s a nice honour,” she said. “I’m obviously a very different player. Messi’s in a league of his own.”
But as Messi is a quadruple Champions League winner, City hope his female counterpart will emulate the Argentine by conquering Europe in their colours.
Carli Lloyd has drawn comparisons as the female version of Lionel Messi and inspired teammates at Manchester City.