Vegalta Sendai Ladies 1 - 2 Albirex Niigata Ladies
Of the two sides, only Vegalta were to make a change from last weekend, bringing in Kakazu Asuka for Ono Hitomi. In the first half the home side did most of the running in the wet conditions, with Yasumoto Sawako working hard up front.
A number of opportunities fell to Vegalta from set-pieces and in the 36th minute Yamamoto Risa headed in the opening goal from a Uetsuji free kick. Having dazzled in the Niigata sunshine last Saturday, the visitors failed to get into a good rhythm and were largely unable to build from the back.
At the same time, Vegalta continued to rely on set-pieces as they relied only on Yasumoto up front, and though she maintained her high work rate, she was unable to make any impact on goal. Niigata equalised in the 72nd minute, and it was no surprise that their goal also came from a free kick, Sakaguchi Moeno's shot inadvertendly knocked into her own net by Saita. With confidence restored, Niigata suddenly found themselves in front three minutes later, Saito Yuri scoring on her birthday, with Sakaguchi supplying the goal from a Kamionobe cross.
Vegalta Sendai changed things around with time running out, putting the tall Hamada up front but Niigata held on for another well-earned victory.
Vegalta Sendai have now lost points from leading positions in their previous three games, and next travel the relatively short distance south to play Urawa looking for recovery; Niigata are at home to Okayama Yunogo Belle.
Vegalta Sendai Ladies:
Saita Yuki (capt), Yamamoto Risa, Osafune Kana, Takahashi Nana, Hamada Haruka, Tahara Nozomi, Kawamura Yuri, Uetsuji Yumi, Kakazu Asuka, Takara Ryoko, Yasumoto Sawako
Subs: Koyama Kie (Tahara Nozomi, 74 mins), Inoue Ayaka (Kakazu Asuka, 78 mins), Sasaki Mayu (Takara Ryoko, 83 mins)
Unused subs: Saito Ayaka, Sakai Yuki, Kawashima Haruna, Irie Miki
Scorers: Yamamoto Risa (36 mins)
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Ichitani Tomoko, Obara Yuria, Kitahara Kana, Yamamoto Arina, Kojima Miku, Takahashi Haruka, Saito Yuri, Saeki Aya, Kamionobe Megumi (capt), Sakaguchi Moeno, Yamazaki Marumi
Subs: Oishi Sayaka (Sakaguchi Moeno, 81 mins), Kodama Keiko (Saeki Aya, 86 mins), Takamura Chisato (Kojima Miku, 90+1 mins)
Unused subs: Fukumura Kanae, Yamada Shoko
Scorers: Own Goal (72 mins), Saito Yuri (75 mins)
AS Elfen Saitama 1 - 4 Okayama Yunogo Belle
Miyama Aya scored twice from the spot in this game to keep Belle in second, while at the bottom Saitama look destined to face another relegation fight along with Kibi who replaced them in 2012. The first penalty came in the 27th minute and was for a foul on Nakano, and this was followed in the 42nd minute by Belle's second, Miyama with the assist this time, knocking in a fine free kick which Matsuoka guided home for her seventh of the season.
Nakano scored the third in the 58th minute, the final pass came from Miyama again but the buildup from the back also included fine contributions from Arimachi and Matsuoka. Miyama's second penalty came in the 82nd minute, this time for handball. Saitama did manage a consolation goal moments later, but only as a result of an own goal off Takahashi Sachie.
Saitama have the daunting task of withstanding the threat of INAC Kobe next weekend, who beat them 9-1 the last time they met in 2012. Belle travel to Niigata.
AS Elfen Saitama:
Yamago Nozomi (capt), Azami Rie, Takeda Arisa, Takahashi Yuko, Nara Misaki, Suzuki Kaoruko, Ito Kanako, Takeyama Yuko, Nakano Rino, Arakawa Eriko, Takahashi Kaho
Subs: Saito Natsumi (Nakano Rino, HT), Hagiwara Aimi (Suzuki Kaoruko, 59 mins)
Unused subs: Funada Mayu, Utsumi Yui, Akitaya Misato, Uchida Saki, Saito Yuri
Scorers: Own Goal (84 mins)
Okayama Yunogo Belle:
Fukumoto Miho (capt), Kado Yuka, Hosokawa Motoyo, Mizushima Kumi, Takahashi Sachie, Kuzuma Riyo, Nakano Manami, Miyama Aya, Asano Miki, Arimachi Saori, Matsuoka Miki
Subs: Fushiki Kaho (Kado Yuka, 68 mins), Kitaura Miho (Kuzuma Riyo, 79 mins)
Unused subs: Hayashizaki Mei, Taniguchi Kikumi, Kawano Saki, Nakada Maiko, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Miyama Aya (27, 81 mins, both pen), Matsuoka Miki (42 mins), Nakano Manami (58 mins)
INAC Kobe Leonessa 2 - 3 Nippon TV Beleza
Beleza travelled to Kobe in desperate need of all three points, though INAC themselves have their own problems and knew that a win would move them up the table as the half-way stage of the season approaches.
Beleza started brightly, passing the ball well and stretching the play to both wings, whereas INAC were almost entirely on the defensive. Shimizu Risa was lively on the right for Beleza, and Shimada looked to break free of the defence regularly in the first ten minutes. Hasegawa had a good chance on twelve minutes as Isokane struggled on the left side of defence.
Ariyoshi Saori had a similar shot on nineteen minutes from the other side, as INAC saw very little of the ball in the opposition third and Beleza will have felt very satisfactory in their shape and sharpness.
Masuya had INAC's first chance after the water break, when a shot from Nakajima rebounded to her in front of goal but she shot well over when she had more time than she realised. It was a warning for Beleza, who continued with their patient build up play without being able to fashion good shooting chances, while Nakajima had another chance to shoot at the other end but put the ball wide with a scuffed shot.
With half an hour played Beleza found the breakthrough their play had deserved, when Sumida's lofted cross into the box was chested down and volleyed home by the team's outstanding player this year, Sakaguchi Mizuho.
Masuya had a good chance Takase wrestling the ball off the much smaller Shimizu but the Beleza defence did enough to put Masuya off as she went to shoot. The pressure on Beleza was increasing though, and INAC equalised moments later, Takase sliding in to volley home on 39 minutes, from a Nakajima free kick on the right side.
Beleza kept their shape and continued to attack down both wings, with crosses into the box causing the INAC defence and goalkeeper Kaihori considerable distress, but they were unable to find another goal before half-time and the sides went in level.
Ito Miki came in for Nakajima Emi at half-time for INAC Kobe, while Beleza were unchanged as yet. Talase shot just wide in the 47th minute as INAC made their attacking intentions clear from the kickoff. However, having pressed relentlessly, they fell behind following a marvellous counter-attack from Beleza, Hasegawa taking the ball down much of the length of the field, before giving the ball off to Shimada who found Iwashimizu who struck home beautifully.
Beleza were continuing with their careful possession football, exemplified by the tireless Shimizu on the right. INAC were more direct, looking to Takase's strength and power. A number of changes were made with 25 minutes remaining, Minamiyama and Isokane came off for Nakada and Watanabe for INAC; for Beleza Tanaka Mina came in for Shimada Chiaki.
Shortly after, Nakasato came in for Shimizu due to injury, as the visitors looked to keep their shape in the face of an expected INAC onslaught. One of their best chances came on 79 minutes, Takase beating the offside trap but Soyama did very well to block the shot and is was cleared from danger. The hosts were creating chances, but at the other end they were kept busy by the Beleza substitutes and couldn't afford to bring up their defensive players.
With INAC unable to create much in front of goal, Beleza scored their third to win the game in the 84th minute, the impressive Sumida Rin scoring with a fine right-footed drive off the left-hand post, following a good run down the right by Hara.
Takase wasn't ready to give up, and she pulled a goal back in additional time, racing on to a loose ball after Kinoshita Shiori failed to head away an airborne ball. It was too little too late and Beleza were able to keep composed to hold on for the most important three points of the season to date.
Both sides remain in their respective positions, but Beleza are now level on points with INAC. Beleza travel to bottom side Kibi next weekend, INAC Kobe travel to Saitama against the side in ninth.
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Noguchi Ayaka, Kai Junko, Miyake Shiori, Isokane Midori, Nakajima Emi, Sawa Homare, Minamiyama Chiaki, Kyokawa Mai, Takase Megumi (capt), Masuya Rika
Subs: Ito Miki (Nakajima Emi, HT), Watanabe Ayaka (Isokane Midori, 67 mins), Nakada Ayu (Minamiyama Chiaki, 67 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Tanaka Yoko
Scorers: Takase Megumi (39, 90+2 mins)
Nippon TV Beleza:
Soyama Kanako, Shimizu Risa, Iwashimizu Azusa (capt), Kinoshita Shiori, Ariyoshi Saori, Hara Natsuko, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Sumida Rin, Hasegawa Yui, Momiki Yuka, Shimada Chiaki
Subs: Tanaka Mina (Shimada Chiaki, 66 mins), Nakasato Yu (Shimizu Risa, 71 mins), Kobayashi Yayoi (Momiki Yuka, 90+3 mins)
Unused subs: Yamashita Ayaka, Kobayashi Miharu
Scorers: Sakaguchi Mizuho (30 mins), Iwashimizu Azusa (50 mins), Sumida Rin (84 mins)
Booked: Shimada Chiaki
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies 1 - 0 JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies
Norimatsu Ruka returned to the Urawa starting lineup, with JEF United naming an unchanged side for this Kanto derby. Urawa had the majority of the play and finally scored the goal they deserved with eighteen minutes remaining, the first of the season for Dozono Ayano, Kira Chinatsu the supplier this time from a right-sided corner kick.
Urawa host Vegalta Sendai next weekend to complete the first half of the season, and their supporters will be expecting to remain on top. JEF United host Iga in Togane, and they need to pick up points to prevent a drop into the bottom four.
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies:
Hirao Chika, Dozono Ayano, Norimatsu Ruka, Kohata Shiho, Usui Rie, Shibata Hanae, Naomoto Hikaru, Kishikawa Natsuki, Kato Chika, Kira Chinatsu, Goto Michi (capt)
Subs: Seike Kiko (Kira Chinatsu, 79 mins), Sakamoto Riho (Kato Chika, 88 mins), Saito Akane (Shibata Hanae, 90+1 mins)
Unused subs: Tajiri Yumi, Wada Naoko, Nagano Fuka, Otaki Ami
Scorers: Dozono Ayano (72 mins)
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Yamane Erina, Wakabayashi Minori, Sakuramoto Naoko (capt), Chino Shoko, Ueno Saki, Setoguchi Kozue, Kawamura Mari, Anzai Yuka, Fukasawa Risa, Ikadai Risa, Sugasawa Yuika
Subs: Hosaka Nodoka (Ikadai Risa, 70 mins)
Unused subs: Miki Yoshimi, Tsurumi Ayaka, Koike Kokoro, Matsuura Nagisa, Kamogawa Miho
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme 3 - 3 Iga FC Kunoichi
Kibi picked up their first point of the season after a battling performance against Iga, who themselves are very much in danger at the bottom of the table. Kibi's most outstanding player of the last two seasons was Sugita Ami, and she provided three assists for her new club, all from corner kicks. With 24 minutes gone Iga were 2-0 up, the first goal scored was an own goal by Takahashi Chiho, the second came from the head of Kiyohara Marie.
Kibi made some drastic changes to their lineup, bringing in Tajima, Oka and Nagano, and started with experienced forward Noma Fumika in defence. With six minutes of the first half remaining, Nagano scored her first league goal off a superb through ball from Nishikawa Asuka.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, Noichi Aya scored Iga's third goal, again a header from a Sugita corner, and the visitors had a two-goal cushion to hold onto. Fortunately for Kibi, Tajima Mitsuyo, making her first start for Kibi, found the net off a Noma cross from the right. It was the first time Kibi have scored more than once this season, and better was to follow five minutes later when Noma headed in the equaliser at the far post off a Takano Saki corner.
Towards the end of the game Iga introduced their two Australian international players who have joined the club on loan, Tameka Butt and Elise Kellond-Knight. Neither had enough time to make an impression on this game, but both will be expected to feature more in the upcoming games as Iga look to move away from the bottom two. Kibi were elated to have finally avoided defeat. They next play Beleza in a very tough test, but the following game is a home tie against Saitama and it is this game on which they will be most focussed. Iga are away again next week, when they play JEF United in Togane.
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme:
Isashi Kaede, Noma Fumika, Takahashi Chiho (capt), Eguchi Mika, Yoshitake Manami, Tajima Mitsuyo, Takano Saki, Oka Misako, Nagano Momoko, Kurakazu Shiho, Nishikawa Asuka
Subs: Hamamoto Marin (Kurakazu Shiho, 82 mins)
Unused subs: Fujita Suzuka, Miyake Ayumi, Kadota Rui, Takatsuka Ayane, Tachibana Rei, Komatsu Mina
Scorers: Nagano Momoko (39 mins), Tajima Mitsuyo (63 mins), Noma Fumika (68 mins)
Iga FC Kunoichi:
Sawada Norimi, Miyasako Tamami, Michikura Hiroko, Ohashi Mio, Kiyohara Marie, Nasu Maiko (capt), Noichi Aya, Haji Madoka, Tsutsumi Saki, Sugita Ami, Ogawa Shiho
Subs: Matsunaga Yoshie (Tsutsumi Saki, HT), Tameka Butt (Haji Madoka, 73 mins), Elise Kellond-Knight (Nasu Maiko, 84 mins)
Unused subs: Kuno Fubuki, Sato Ai
Scorers: Own Goal (9 mins), Kiyohara Marie (24 mins), Noichi Aya (60 mins)