INAC Kobe Leonessa 4 - 0 NTV Beleza
With INAC Kobe still smarting from their defeat to Beleza in the League Cup final, and with that victory being Beleza's only bragging rights this season over the league champions, neither side had any intention of taking things easy on this final day of the season. Added to the rivalry was the battle between the home side's birthday girl Takase Megumi and Beleza's Nagasato Asano for the league's top scorer trophy, with Takase one goal ahead coming into the game.
INAC Kobe made one change to the side which beat Urawa, Tanako Yoko returning to the bench with Ji So-Yun back in the starting lineup. Beleza made no changes to the side which dominated Takatsuki so easily, with young Doko Mayo retaining her place.
Takase showed her intent in the third minute, beating the offside trap and haring into the box, before fouling Iwashimizu. She was put through again by Goebel-Yanez but was well marshalled and the chance was gone. The steady rain and wet Osaka pitch meant a lot of slipping and loss of footing during the early exchanges and Beleza were struggling badly to retain possession beyond the half-way line.
It then took until the eighteenth minute for another chance to materialise, Goebel-Yanez shooting just wide as the rain became heavier and the players really struggled to play tight passing football.
Finally a breakthrough in the 25th minute, as Goebel-Yanez was found towards the right of the penalty box following a contested header and she just about kept her footing to bundle the ball over the line. The assistant referee had flagged for offside but the referee allowed the goal to stand. Replays suggested that Goebel-Yanez had indeed stayed onside, and that the ball had probably come off a Beleza head, but Noda Akemi on the Beleza bench was less than impressed.
In the 32nd minute Beleza had their first shot at goal, and it just whistled wide of the left hand post - Ito Kanako shooting from just outside the box. INAC Kobe had had more of the possession and the better passages of play, and not long after they had a second. Ohno twisted and turned to make space, and she found Ji running toward goal at speed, sprinting past Kobayashi Yayoi to score with a beautiful shot into the bottom left corner of the net past Matsubayashi. That was Ji's first goal since the second game of the season, and with Beleza's almost complete lack of penetration, it felt already as if it would be enough to win the game.
INAC Kobe created one or two more dangerous chances for themselves in the remaining ten minutes, while Beleza created nothing of note, and Noda had her work cut out at half-time as she looked for a way for her team to get back into the match.
Nagasato Asano finally had a shooting chance at the start of the second half, as her powerful shot was beaten away by Kaihori Ayumi for the first corner kick of the game, and thereafter Beleza showed more attacking potency in the following minutes than they had done in the entire first 45 minutes. Thereafter INAC reasserted themselves and both Takase and Ohno had good shooting chances.
As the rain continued to pelt down, Beleza started to create chances on both wings and showed much better controlled passing all over the park, and generally looked an entirely different side to that which was so underwhelming in the first half. Kobayshi Yayoi missed when directly in front of goal and couldn't believe that she hadn't connected properly. From the corner kick Sudo headed over, but the signs were better for Beleza.
On seventy minutes Ariyoshi Saori found herself free on the right of the penalty area, but she dragged her shot wide as time began to run out for Beleza. Minutes later, Takase found Goebel-Yanez down the right and her perfect cross across the face of the goal was volleyed in by Kawasumi Nahomi for her eighth goal of the season. Not long after, Nakajima Emi entered the fray, replacing Goebel-Yanez in what may be her last game for the club.
Nakajima wasted no time in making it 4-0, as another slick move down the left saw Ohno square the ball to Nakajima who found the bottom corner expertly. Ji So-Yun was replaced a few minutes later, with Minamiyama coming on in her stead. Crowd favourite Tanaka Yoko replaced Kawasumi with just nine minutes remaining for INAC's last substitution, with the only remaining issue whether Nagasato could score a goal to bring herself level with Takase, even if it would feel a substantially hollow achievement.
Tanaka Mina came on for Kobayashi Yayoi with just over five minutes remaining for Beleza, as their second half revival came to nothing. With time running out, all that there was to ponder was how Beleza or any other side could develop to be able to cope with INAC Kobe next season, as they finish the season a full fifteen points ahead of second-placed Beleza, with a draw against Belle earlier in the season their only blemish. Indeed, at no stage in any of the eighteen games did INAC fall a goal behind. Beleza still know they have the capability of beating INAC, as they showed in the League Cup final, but to have finished so far behind INAC is distressing. As it turned out, neither Takase nor Nagasato scored, and so they finish first and second respectively in the scoring charts.
Both sides now take part in the International Women's Club Championship, which starts on the 22nd, and after that they may well meet in the final of the Empress' Cup in December.
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Kinga Yukari, Kai Junko, Tanaka Asuna, Takara Ryoko, Ji So-Yun, Ohno Shinobu (capt), Sawa Homare, Kawasumi Nahomi, Beverly Goebel-Yanez, Takase Megumi
Subs: Nakajima Emi (Beverly Goebel-Yanez, 72 mins), Minamiyama Chiaki (Ji So-Yun, 78 mins), Tanaka Yoko (Kawasumi Nahomi, 82 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Rebecca Moros
Scorers: Beverly Goebel-Yanez (25 mins), Ji So-Yun (35 mins), Kawasumi Nahomi (72 mins), Nakajima Emi (74 mins)
Matsubayashi Miku, Sudo Akiko, Kobayashi Misaki, Iwashimizu Azusa (capt), Doko Mayo, Ariyoshi Saori, Hara Natsuko, Kobayashi Yayoi, Ito Kanako, Nagasato Asano, Kiryu Nanase
Subs: Tanaka Mina (Kobayashi Yayoi, 85 mins)
Unused subs: Soyama Kanako, Kobayashi Miharu, Sumida Rin, Momiki Yuka
Fukuoka J. Anclas 3 - 2 Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies
Fukuoka may well have been relegated but they've not gone out without enjoying their last two games in the top division, taking the scalp of Urawa Reds this weekend to add to that of Belle last week. Urawa, having only lost one of their first eleven games having suddenly slumped badly, losing five of their last seven games. Yet two of those seven games resulted in wins over second-placed Beleza and third-placed Belle, so on their day they do have what it takes to compete with the best. Today was most certainly not their day.
In a lively first half in poor weather, Anclas took the lead in the 22nd minute. Following a corner, the ball was cleared by the Urawa defence, but having been pumped back in the ball eventually came to Kawamura Mari who finished expertly. It looked like Anclas may hold on until half-time but following a powerful Shibata run and pass, Goto Michi held off her marker, rounded the 'keeper and slotted home.
Nine minutes into the second half and Urawa were stunned by Kawamura again, with Fujimoto Yuki heading the ball into space for her to run onto. Though Kawamura's shot was accurate, Ikeda will feel looking back that she should have stopped the ball from going in. That was Kawamura's fourth goal this season, the most of any Anclas player.
Again Urawa came back, this time through Saito Akane making just her fifth start of the season. This time the goal was created by two of Urawa's more senior players, Niwata and Tsuchihashi, whose cross from the right went over everyone's heads to find Saito at the back post who struck the ball well into the net.
Given Anclas' defensive problems this year, it was most likely thought at this stage that the best they would be hoping for would be a draw just as in their first meeting, but they decided that they may as well give it a go, and with six minutes remaining they had the lead for the third time, in the only game in which they've scored three goals. Following a goal kick, Kiyohara picked up the ball and played a perfect pass through to Fujimoto on the left, and her perfectly lobbed shot hit the inside of the right post and nestled in the back of the net.
Anclas held on and celebrated wildly at the end of the ninety minutes. Their only regret will be that the form they've shown over their final two games wasn't produced earlier in the season, as they now find themselves in the Challenge League battling fifteen other teams for a top spot. Urawa will once again wonder how they have failed to win against lower opposition, and will be aghast at how they weren't in a position to challenge for a top three finish.
Fukuoka J. Anclas:
Sawada Norimi, Uchihori Ritsuko (capt), Isokane Midori, Hanada Aiko, Sato Kaede, Yanagita Shiori, Doshita Misato, Kawamura Mari, Shibuya Yumiko, Kuzuma Riyo, Fujimoto Yuki
Subs: Kiyohara Marie (Shibuya Yumiko, 79 mins), Tagashira Yoko (Kuzuma Riyo, 79 mins), Hirata Hikari (Fujimoto Yuki, 90+1 mins)
Unused subs: Kim Kyoung Sin
Scorers: Kawamura Mari (22, 54 mins), Fujimoto Yuki (84 mins)
Booked: Doshita Misato
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies:
Ikeda Sakiko, Tsuchihashi Yuki, Yano Kyoko (capt), Saito Akane, Kohata Shiho, Kishikawa Natsuki, Fujita Nozomi, Niwata Akiko, Shibata Hanae, Kira Chinatsu, Goto Michi
Subs: Dozono Ayano (Saito Akane, 73 mins), Arakawa Eriko (Kira Chinatsu, 73 mins), Kato Chika (Shibata Hanae, 85 mins)
Unused subs: Yamago Nozomi, Takeyama Yuko
Scorers: Goto Michi (44 mins), Saito Akane (71 mins)
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies 2 - 0 Albirex Niigata Ladies
Both sides again finished mid-table but both had plenty to fight for, with visiting Niigata hoping to guarantee a top-five finish ahead of Iga, with JEF United also looking to stay ahead of the Kunoichi, though they couldn't catch Niigata whatever the day's results. Yamamoto Naomi was making just her fourth start of the year for JEF United, while Niigata recalled Otomo, Wakabayashi and Hori.
Niigata created little in the first half, and the JEF players will have been disappointed not to have made their superiority count. In the second half though, they finally found the goals to win the game, with Niigata much improved in the final forty-five minutes.
With less than ten minutes of the second half played, Sakuramoto Naoko scored her first goal in her fourth consecutive start, having been used sparingly as a substitute thus far. A free kick taken by Hosokawa from just inside the Niigata half found Sakuramoto back-pedalling and having completely lost her marker, she simply headed into the net with Otomo misjudging badly.
Twenty minutes later almost the exact same pattern was repeated, when another Hosokawa free kick knocked into the Niigata box was easily headed home by Ogawa Shiho, scoring her second in two games, and her third this season. The Niigata coaching staff will certainly know where to start when it comes to training in the off-season, as on both occasions their marking was almost non-existent.
JEF saw out the game to finish sixth this season, an improvement of one position from last year, with Niigata just one point ahead of them in fifth position, just as they had in their last campaign.
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Funada Mayu, Sakuramoto Naoko, Takahashi Sachie, Hosokawa Motoyo, Kawamura Mariko, Ikadai Risa, Yamamoto Naomi, Hosaka Nodoka, Anzai Yuka, Fukasawa Risa (capt), Ogawa Shiho
Subs: Kawamura Noriko (Anzai Yuka, 75 mins), Tezuka Saori (Yamamoto Naomi, 80 mins), Shimizu Yuka (Ikadai Risa, 87 mins)
Unused subs: Kuratani Yuna, Oya Madoka
Scorers: Sakuramoto Naoko (54 mins), Ogawa Shiho (74 mins)
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Otomo Maiko (capt), Wakabayashi Minori, Nakamura Kaede, Higashiyama Maiko, Hirai Sakina, Kodama Keiko, Saito Yuri, Kamionobe Megumi, Toyoda Nayuha, Yamazaki Marumi, Hori Yoshie
Subs: Saeki Aya (Kodama Keiko, 62 mins), Kawamura Yuri (Toyoda Nayuha, 71 mins), Kitahara Kana (Hori Yoshie, 83 mins)
Unused subs: Yamamoto Arina, Nakamura Saki
Speranza F.C. Osaka Takatsuki 2 - 0 Iga FC Kunoichi
Takatsuki have pulled themselves out of the relegation hole in the last few weeks when they looked destined for the relegation playoff, but with this victory their safety was assured, and though they have not had a good season they will feel very satisfied to remain in the top flight. The home side made no changes to that which was hammered by Beleza last weekend, and Iga also retained their starting eleven from their home draw with JEF United.
A generally uneventful game on a terribly soggy pitch truly sparked into life in the 64th minute, when Kunoichi 'keeper Ono Maya saw the first and only red card of the entire Nadeshiko League season. A long kick from her opposite number Suzuki Rina fell for Maruyama Karina and shaking off her marker she hared into the box. Ono's clumsy challenge was swiftly punished by the referee. After some discussion substitute goalkeeper Kuno came on, replacing Mastunaga. Maruyama herself took and scored the penalty to the obvious delight of team and supporters.
Just three minutes later the hosts had a second, and it was enough to ensure survival. After an Iga attacking move broke down, Kameoka Natsumi knocked a long ball into the middle ahead of substitute Asano Miki and her speed was enough to take her away from the defence to score her third of the season, though the ball did seem to take a deflection off Sato Ai which took it away from Fubuki.
Having gained ten points from three wins and a draw in their last five games, Takatsuki showed that they did ultimately have the strength and quality to survive. Iga finish one place above today's rivals, but will be disappointed not to have finished higher, with Niigata in fifth just two points ahead.
Speranza F.C. Osaka Takatsuki:
Suzuki Risa, Tsuboi Ayako, Okuda Akiko (capt), Akiba Yumeko, Hamada Haruka, Kameoka Natsumi, Itami Emi, Torao Naomi, Matsuda Nozomi, Shimamura Yuko, Maruyama Karina
Subs: Asano Miki (Shimamura Yuko, 60 mins), Gwon Su Jin (Maruyama Karina, 79 mins), Toyama Sayuri (Hamada Haruka, 89 mins)
Unused subs: Nakamura Saki, Mok Hyun Su
Scorers: Maruyama Karina (67 mins), Asano Miki (70 mins)
Iga FC Kunoichi:
Ono Maya, Ono Suzuka (capt), Miyasako Tamami, Sato Ai, Fujimoto Ayano, Miyamoto Tomomi, Nasu Maiko, Tsutsumi Saki, Kobayashi Makiko, Nakade Hikari, Matsunaga Yoshie
Subs: Kuno Fubuki (Matsunaga Yoshie, 65 mins), Sakaguchi Sakie (Tsutsumi Saki, 71 mins)
Unused subs: Matsunaga Tomoe, Noichi Aya, Sonomura Nana
Sent off: Ono Maya
AS Elfen Sayama FC 2 - 6 Okayama Yunogo Belle
With only one win in their previous ten games, Sayama needed to pull off a huge shock at home to third-placed Belle, and at the same time hope that Iga could overcome the resurgent Takatsuki. In the end it was a familiar story for Sayama, as they slumped to another heavy defeat which means a play-off against Belle's neighbours FC Takahashi.
Belle took the lead after twenty minutes, Miyama Aya once again scoring a trademark free kick from the right side of the area, powerfully striking the ball over Kobayashi. Neither side created much in the rest of the half until three minutes before the break when Belle's failure to clear the ball properly allowed Yajima Yuki to smash home her only goal of the season from outside the area.
Belle turned on the style in the second half though, and three goals in the first twenty minutes ended Sayama's hopes of guaranteed survival. Kado Yuka, recalled to the starting lineup headed in a Miyama free kick and another Miyama-led set play led to another goal three minutes later when Nakano headed in following a scramble in front of goal.
Belle's fourth goal came about following almost the exact same sequence, with a Miyama corner kick leading to a goalmouth scramble, with Nakano firing in for her seventh of the season. Two goals were scored in the next three minutes, Suzuki Kaoruko scored her fifth for Sayama - and second from the substitutes' bench - when Fukumoto Miho found herself hopelessly outside of her area looking to intercept the ball and Suzuki had an empty net to stroke the ball into. Belle almost immediately went up the other end and scored, Matsuoka Miki with her seventh of the season heading in a Miyama free kick with Kobayashi punching the air.
The scoring was complete when Yokoyama Kumi scored for the first time this season with just three minutes remaining. Miyama again was the instigator, chipping forward down the left wing for Yokoyama who went past Shibata like she wasn't there and struck the ball forcefully into the roof of the net, which delighted both herself and her team-mates.
So after a run of four defeats, Belle managed to re-assert themselves and finish the season in third place, which is as well as they would have expected. Sayama's troubles are far from over, as their woeful defending gives their supporters real concern ahead of the two clashes with FC Takahashi, who excel in attack. The first half of their season had gone quite well, with eight points from eight games, but in the final ten games they only picked up another three points (from their second victory over Anclas) and their Goals Against column reads 50, the highest of any Nadeshiko League team. Their first playoff tie will be held in Kasaoka City on September 17th, with their home leg in Kumagaya City on the 23rd.
AS Elfen Sayama FC:
Kobayashi Maiko, Yajima Yuki, Shibata Satomi (capt), Takahashi Yuko, Kumagai Sayaka, Azami Rie, Uchida Saki, Kobayashi Natsumi, Watanabe Ayaka, Sawada Yuka, Saito Yuri
Subs: Suzuki Kaoruko (Uchida Saki, 57 mins), Nara Misaki (Saito Yuri, 57 mins), Hagiwara Aimi (Sawada Yuka, 66 mins)
Unused subs: Arima Shizuka, Kiyohara Yuuko
Scorers: Yajima Yuki (42 mins), Suzuki Kaoruko (66 mins)
Okayama Yunogo Belle:
Fukumoto Miho (capt), Yasuda Kuniko, Kado Yuka, Tsuhako Yumiko, Sakai Nozomi, Takahashi Haruka, Nakano Manami, Nakagawa Chihiro, Miyama Aya, Arimachi Saori, Matsuoka Miki
Subs: Yokoyama Kumi (Nakagawa Chihiro, 54 mins), Yamaguchi Mami (Sakai Nozomi, 71 mins), Mizushima Kumi (Arimachi Saori, 90+3 mins)
Unused subs: Ikegaya Natsumi, Shigemoto Shiho
Scorers: Miyama Aya (20 mins), Kado Yuka (48 mins), Nakano Manami (51, 65 mins), Matsuoka Miki (68 mins), Yokoyama Kumi (87 mins)