Vegalta Sendai Ladies 1 - 1 Okayama Yunogo Belle
Vegalta Sendai utterly dominated the play in the opening half, but their scoring touch deserted them and Miyama Aya punished them at the other end, first by finding Nakano Manami in space on the left with a fine cross-field pass to send her free, and when a corner resulted from this breakaway, Miyama found Nakano again from the corner kick and the ball found its way into the net past the despairing Sendai defence.
Belle thus went into the break a goal up, but this lead was to evaporate early after the restart after Uetsuji Yumi scored her first goal in nine games with Hamada Haruka, started for the second consecutive game up front, finding Uetsuji in plenty of room in front of goal. Vegalta will certainly feel that they should have won given their dominance in possession and chances, though their finishing was generally poor and their backs weren't entirely confident. Belle for their part did create a few chances, mostly from Miyama, though as the game wore on she found herself dropping back to the edge of her own area in an attempt to start attacks from deep.
Belle now have just one point from the last nine and remain three points behind Urawa with Beleza still breathing down their necks, and they next face a surprisingly resurgent Saitama. Vegalta Sendai travel west to Niigata to take on another side which could slip into the bottom four.
Vegalta Sendai Ladies:
Saita Yuki (capt), Sakai Yuki, Yamamoto Risa, Osafune Kana, Sasaki Mayu, Inoue Ayaka, Kawamura Yuri, Uetsuji Yumi, Kakazu Asuka, Takara Ryoko, Hamada Haruka
Subs: Koyama Kie (Inoue Ayaka, 73 mins)
Unused subs: Saito Ayaka, Takahashi Nana, Tahara Nozomi, Ideue Asako, Kawashima Haruna, Irie Miki
Scorers: Uetsuji Yumi (49 mins)
Booked: Sasaki Mayu
Okayama Yunogo Belle:
Fukumoto Miho (capt), Hosokawa Motoyo, Fushiki Kaho, Mizushima Kumi, Takahashi Sachie, Kuzuma Riyo, Nakano Manami, Miyama Aya, Asano Miki, Arimachi Saori, Matsuoka Miki
Subs: Nakada Maiko (Nakano Manami, 89 mins)
Unused subs: Taniguchi Kikumi, Kawano Saki, Kitaura Miho, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Nakano Manami (42 mins)
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies 0 - 0 Nippon TV Beleza
A result which suits neither side nonetheless keeps Urawa on top, and with Belle three points behind but with a far inferior goal difference, their players and management know that if they can maintain their steady form that they can finish the Regular Series on top, with the bonus of participation in the International Women's Club Championship later in the year. Beleza remain five points adrift of Urawa and go into a difficult home tie against INAC Kobe, who will be more determined than ever to defeat their great rivals.
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies:
Hirao Chika, Dozono Ayano, Norimatsu Ruka, Kohata Shiho, Wada Naoko, Shibata Hanae, Naomoto Hikaru, Kishikawa Natsuki, Kato Chika, Seike Kiko, Goto Michi (capt)
Subs: Kira Chinatsu (Seike Kiko, 74 mins), Saito Akane (Kato Chika, 78 mins), Otaki Ami (Goto Michi, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Ikeda Sakiko, Ishii Saki, Usui Rie, Nagano Fuka
Nippon TV Beleza:
Soyama Kanako, Shimizu Risa, Kinoshita Shiori, Iwashimizu Azusa, Ariyoshi Saori, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Hara Natsuko, Sumida Rin, Momiki Yuka, Nakasato Yu, Tanaka Mina
Subs: Kobayashi Yayoi (Nakasato Yu, 74 mins), Yamaguchi Mami (Momiki Yuka, 83 mins)
Unused subs: Yamashita Ayaka, Doko Mayo, Kobayashi Miharu, Takahashi Saori, Shimada Chiaki
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme 1 - 5 Albirex Niigata Ladies
A first goal in four games for Kibi raised spirits but it was the same old story as Niigata came into town and took away all three points. Niigata gave rare starts to Sayama Momoko and the on-loan Kojima Miku, with Saeki Aya also returning. Kibi again rotated their side with a view to the upcoming Exciting Series, with Isashi back in goal and the energetic Tajima and Nagano coming into midfield, joined by the more regular starter Takano Saki.
Niigata got off to a tremendous start after three minutes and it was Saeki who made the breakthrough - striking an unstoppable shot past Isashi from just outside the area. Kibi were level twenty minutes later, when Takano scored her first of the season and it was even more spectacular than Saeki's, struck from just outside the centre circle.
Kibi weren't level for long, and two goals in the final twelve minutes of the half gave Niigata a commanding two-goal lead at half-time, the first from Oishi Sayaka, finishing off well in the box and the second from Sakaguchi Moeno, with a skillful backheel from Kamionobe wrong-footing the Kibi defence, though Sakaguchi had some work to do before she could finish off.
The scored remained 3-1 for most of the remainder of the game, with Kibi never really looking likely to get back into it. Two late goals helped Niigata's goal difference, with may prove crucial in three games' time. The first was Yamada Shoko's second career goal, for which she has waited since July of 2010 to score, and the second of the two was the second of the day for Sakaguchi Moeno, with Kamionobe involved in both of these goals.
Kibi next visit Iga, the only side against whom they have picked up a point and whom they will again play twice in the Exciting Series. Niigata are still in danger of joining those two sides, and will push hard against Vegalta Sendai, who currently stand two points behind them.
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme:
Isashi Kaede, Noma Fumika, Muramatsu Mafuyu, Kadota Rui, Yoshitake Manami, Kurakazu Shiho, Takano Saki, Tajima Mitsuyo, Nagano Momoko, Nishikawa Asuka, Takahashi Chiho (capt)
Subs: Tachibana Mami (Kurakazu Shiho, 57 mins), Kanbara Misaki (Tajima Mitsuyo, 64 mins), Eguchi Mika (Nagano Momoko, 84 mins)
Unused subs: Fujita Suzuka, Oka Misako, Komatsu Mina, Hamamoto Marin
Scorers: Takano Saki (23 mins)
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Ichitani Tomoko, Obara Yuria, Kitahara Kana, Sayama Momoko, Kojima Miku, Takahashi Haruka, Saito Yuri, Sakaguchi Moeno, Kamionobe Megumi (capt), Saeki Aya, Oishi Sayaka
Subs: Kubota Mayu (Oishi Sayaka, 67 mins), Yamada Shoko (Takahashi Haruka, 72 mins), Kodama Keiko (Saeki Aya, 79 mins)
Unused subs: Koganemaru Sachie, Yamamoto Arina
Scorers: Saeki Aya (3 mins), Oishi Sayaka (33 mins), Sakaguchi Moeno (44, 90+3 mins), Yamada Shoko (88 mins)
AS Elfen Saitama 4 - 2 JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies
Having beaten INAC Kobe and taken a points from Beleza, JEF United were confident of going home from their visit to Kumagaya with all three points but it was another surprise win for the home side, who have moved ahead of Iga into eighth position.
Suzuki Kaoruko scored her second of the season to give Saitama the lead after 21 minutes, with considerable assistance from Arakawa Eriko who took the ball forward from midfield and from Nara Misaki, who took Arakawa's pass and squared the ball to Suzuki who allowed Yamane to dive first before finishing off.
Azami Rie is having another fine season for Saitama, and she doubled the lead eight minutes after the restart. Ito Kanako, who today celebrated her 200th league appearance, knocked in a corner kick which Azami headed in well while running away from goal. All hopes of a JEF revivial were extinguished eleven minutes later when Azami turned provider, crossing from the right, but the goal was largely the fault of Yamane, who pawed the ball out in front of her and Arakawa rarely misses chances that easy.
JEF United finally scored in the 71st minute to raise hopes of another dramatic recovery, captain Sakuramoto Naoko heading in a corner kick which Yamago failed to claim though five minutes later Arakawa scored again to join Azami on six goals for the season. Fellow veteran Ito was again the supplier, this time from a free kick, with very poor marking from the JEF defence allowing Arakawa a free header.
Sugasawa Yuika moved onto eleven goals for the season when she scored the fourth headed goal of the game in the final minute of normal time, with Yamago again flapping and missing.
JEF United sit in seventh having failed to take advantage of Vegalta Sendai dropping points yesterday and with each passing game it looks likely that the final weekend's game between these two sides may be the decider. They next play leaders Urawa against whom they lost by a single goal earlier in the season. Saitama travel west to play Belle, who have recently lost their way and will be desperate to recover with just three games remaining.
AS Elfen Saitama:
Yamago Nozomi (capt), Takeda Arisa, Saito Natsumi, Takahashi Yuko, Takeyama Yuko, Hagiwara Aimi, Ito Kanako, Nara Misaki, Azami Rie, Arakawa Eriko, Suzuki Kaoruko
Subs: Sugiyama Takako (Suzuki Kaoruko, 70 mins), Takahashi Kaho (Nara Misaki, 76 mins)
Unused subs: Funada Mayu, Utsumi Yui, Akitaya Misato, Saito Yuri, Uchida Saki
Scorers: Suzuki Kaoruko (21 mins), Azami Rie (53 mins), Arakawa Eriko (64, 76 mins)
Booked: Hagiwara Aimi
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Yamane Erina, Chino Shoko, Sakuramoto Naoko (capt), Oya Madoka, Wakabayashi Minori, Kawamura Mari, Hosaka Nodoka, Anzai Yuka, Ikadai Risa, Fukasawa Risa, Sugasawa Yuika
Subs: Setoguchi Kozue (Anzai Yuka, 62 mins), Kamogawa Miho (Ikadai Risa, 65 mins), Ueno Saki (Fukasawa Risa, 78 mins)
Unused subs: Nemoto Mio, Tsurumi Ayaka, Matsuura Nagisa, Hanagiri Naomi
Scorers: Sakuramoto Naoko (71 mins), Sugasawa Yuika (90 mins)
INAC Kobe Leonessa 2 - 1 Iga FC Kunoichi
Iga went into this meeting with INAC Kobe in Kumamoto knowing that they must try to pick up points wherever possible in advance of the Exciting Series. INAC Kobe are almost certainly destined to compete for the title, though would prefer a good starting position and a run of good form ahead of their final ten games.
Iga saw enough of the ball in the first minutes to suggest that they could make an impact, and on ten minutes a Kellond-Knight corner kick delivered into the area caused mild panic in the INAC area, though Iga were not entirely composed themselves and their players successively snatched at the ball and failed to get a good shot away.
A chance for Nakajima at one end was followed by one for Nasu at the other, though neither goalkeeper had been troubled much in the opening twenty minutes. After a water break INAC Kobe started to exert more pressure but were unable to penetrate the tight Iga defence, and were usually caught offside on the few occasions on which they did break through.
The pattern of the opening minutes continued throughout the first half, with Iga finding good openings to shoot but with little quality in front of goal, while INAC Kobe struggled to even get into position to shoot, and ended the half with only one attempt on goal registered.
Kyokawa Mai and Masuya Rika came on at half-time for INAC Kobe, and expectations were high that their pace and skill would be the key to unlocking the Iga defence. Minamiyama and Miyake were the two players who made way. Iga made no changes.
Tsutsumi opened the scoring in the 54th minute, and Iga richly deserved to lead given their relative dominance. From a long ball by Kellond-Knight the ball came to Kobayashi Makiko off a defensive header from Kai and Kobayashi's ball across the edge of the area was missed by everyone but Tsutsumi, who finished well past Kaihori.
INAC Kobe piled on the pressure and a free kick into the box wasn't dealt with well, and from the resulting corner Takase almost scored with her head, with Iga's defending becoming desperate. A handball by Kellond-Knight near the goalline resulted in another panicky clearance by Iga after a scramble in the box and it was clear that INAC Kobe would eventaully make the breakthrough.
Sugita Ami came on for Matsunaga Yoshie with twenty-eight minutes remaining, as Iga looked to hold the ball in midfield to relieve the pressure on the defence. Minutes later Takase again went close in when she turned and shot just wide off a Masuya corner.
Ito Miki came on for Watanabe for INAC Kobe in the 67th minute. For Iga, Sonomura came on for Kobayashi Makiko shortly after, and the water break which followed signalled the final twenty minute period as INAC Kobe became more desperate to get forward to score.
INAC's attacking ambitions finally bore fruit, with two goals in four minutes turning the game around. From the right Noguchi beat Kellond-Knight and then crossed into the box where Kyokawa had gotten in front of Michikura and the young striker's shot deflected off the defender and into the net for the equaliser. Moments later Michikura was again the centre of attention as she handled the ball in the area, though the call was very harsh as the ball bounced up to hit her hand and there was little danger otherwise. Takase made no mistake from the spot.
Takase had another chance to score when put through from a long ball but young Ohashi Mio recovered well to get in a tackle to deny the league's top scorer. Iga made their last change at this stage, Matsunaga coming on for Kiyohara.
In the closing stages the Iga players were seeing less and less of the ball as they became exhausted in the high temperatures. INAC Kobe were far more controlled in their play and they continued to exert pressure from all angles and looked dangerous whenever they took possession. Kellond-Knight moved into midfield but it was her Brisbane Roar teammate Clare Polkinghorne who had a chance to score, heading just over the bar.
Iga piled on the pressure in additional time but couldn't find a way past Kaihori. INAC's win keeps them clear of the bottom four and they should have no trouble finishing well in advance of the Exciting Series. Iga will be most disappointed and the thumping 4-2 victory for Saitama over JEF United keeps them in ninth, four points behind Saitama.
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Clare Polkinghorne, Kai Junko, Miyake Shiori, Noguchi Ayaka, Sawa Homare, Isokane Midori, Watanabe Ayaka, Nakajima Emi, Takase Megumi (capt), Minamiyama Chiaki
Subs: Masuya Rika (Miyake Shiori, HT), Kyokawa Mai (Minamiyama Chiaki, HT), Ito Miki (Watanabe Ayaka, 67 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Nakada Ayu
Scorers: Kyokawa Mai (73 mins), Takase Megumi (76 mins, pen)
Iga FC Kunoichi:
Kuno Fubuki, Miyasako Tamami, Michikura Hiroko, Ohashi Mio, Elise Kellond-Knight, Nasu Maiko (capt), Matsunaga Tomoe, Kobayashi Makiko, Tsutsumi Saki, Matsunaga Yoshie, Ogawa Shiho
Subs: Sugita Ami (Matsunaga Yoshie, 63 mins), Sonomura Nana (Kobayashi Makiko, 69 mins), Kiyohara Marie (Matsunaga Tomoe, 81 mins)
Unused subs: Sawada Norimi, Sato Ai, Tameka Butt
Scorers: Tsutsumi Saki (54 mins)
Booked: Elise Kellond-Knight