Lloyd and clear

Manch­ester City mid­fielder tar­gets Uefa Cham­pi­ons League glory.

The National - News - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - Richard Jolly

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.

Tom Flathers / AP Photo

Tom Flathers via AP Images

Carli Lloyd has drawn com­par­isons as the fe­male ver­sion of Lionel Messi and in­spired team­mates at Manch­ester City.

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