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Colchester United ensured that at least one European trophy will be heading across the channel this summer after they topped twenty top European sides at the Plus International Women's Tournament hosted by Dutch club SV Gramsbergen.
The U's took a mixed group of first team, reserve and academy players and despite the lack of experience, the squad acquitted themselves magnificently over the two day tournament notching wins three wins and a draw in the group stages to top their group. Hannah Gowland, Zoe Rushen, Lily Mellors and Amy Nash were all on the scoresheet for the U's in the victories while a strong defensive effort led by youngsters Sophie Blowers, Rebecca Smith and 'keeper Helena Brodie in their final group game against Dutch Premier League outfit Buitenveldert of Amsterdam secured qualification.
In the semi final, Colchester came up against the Luxembourg national champions Jeunesse Junglinster and in a tense battle it was Rushen's free kick that broke the deadlock, her strike crashing down off the underside of the bar with young defender Smith following up to make sure the ball crossed the line.
Onto the final then and it was another top flight Dutch outfit Be Quick '28 providing the opposition and in truth their slick passing and excellent movement dominated much of the game with a number of good chances spurned. Colchester did have their moments though, Gowland in particular causing problems on the counter attack forcing the Dutch keeper into two fine saves.
The decisive moment came with seven minutes remaining, this time it was Gowland who stepped up to unleash a superb 30-yard free kick drive which also struck the underside of the bar bouncing close to the goal line and once again Smith was on hand to follow up, heading the ball back towards the goal. Her effort was not as clear cut this time though as a Dutch defender scrambled the ball away from inside her own goal but the superbly positioned assistant signalled to Champions League official Bas Nijhus that the ball had crossed the line and the all important goal was given.
Dogged defending in the closing minutes saw out the victory for Colchester who were presented with the impressive champions trophy.
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