Okayama Yunogo Belle 3 - 1 JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies
(Attendance: 2, 487)
The opening weekend of the Exciting Series saw top take on bottom, but with only five points between them, a victory for JEF United would see them close the gap to a bare two points.
JEF United got off to a great start despite their lack of chances in front of goal, taking a 1-0 lead into half-time. Working the ball down the right Anzai found Ikadai who crossed from that side invitingly for Kawamura Mari to finish smartly past Fukumoto.
Belle came out for the second half in a determined mood, and following intense pressure on the JEF goal were level, Matsuoka heading home an Asano cross, like the visitors' goal coming from the right side.
The winning goals then took some time in coming, in both cases coming from free kicks. The first came from deep, Fukumoto knocking the ball long and when Matsuoka headed on Arimachi lobbed the outrushing Yamane to score. That goal came with ten minutes remaining and with time running out Belle had the insurance goal. This time it was Miyama supplying, Kado Yuka knocking the ball home after Yamane had once again missed the ball.
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
Unused subs: Taniguchi Kikumi, Kitaura Miho, Kawano Saki, Fushiki Kaho, Nakada Maiko, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Matsuoka Miki (59 mins), Arimachi Saori (80 mins), Kado Yuka (89 mins)
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Yamane Erina, Wakabayashi Minori, Sakuramoto Naoko (capt), Chino Shoko, Ueno Saki, Anzai Yuka, Setoguchi Kozue, Kawamura Mari, Fukasawa Risa, Ikadai Risa, Sugasawa Yuika
Subs: Kamogawa Miho (Anzai Yuka, 68 mins)
Unused subs: Nemoto Mio, Tsurumi Ayaka, Oya Madoka, Matsuura Nagisa, Yasuda Saki
Scorers: Kawamura Mari (37 mins)
Booked: Setoguchi Kozue
Albirex Niigata Ladies 1 - 1 Nippon TV Beleza
Niigata have shown great improvement this season to finish fourth and they came out determined to challenge for the title, even if they are one of the outsiders. They took the lead at home against Beleza after fourteen minutes, tall defender Kitahara Kana bundling the ball over after Beleza goalkeeper Soyama Kanako inexplicably allowed the ball through her hands. Beleza equalised just before half-time, their top scorer this year Sakaguchi Mizuho heading in powerfully from a Shimizu cross.
Beleza were disappointed with their collapse in their final game which deprived them of top spot, and they will have been similarly unhappy with their Exciting Series debut. They next play Urawa at home in what promises to be an entertaining match. Niigata travel to Okayama to play leaders Belle.
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Ichitani Tomoko, Obara Yuria, Kitahara Kana, Yamamoto Arina, Kojima Miku, Takahashi Haruka, Saito Yuri, Sakaguchi Moeno, Kamionobe Megumi (capt), Saeki Aya, Oishi Sayaka
Subs: Yamazaki Marumi (Oishi Sayaka, 58 mins), Kubota Mayu (Saeki Aya, 83 mins)
Unused subs: Koganemaru Sachie, Okakura Mika, Yamada Shoko, Sekura Haruhi
Scorers: Kitahara Kana (14 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, Tanaka Mina
Subs: Kobayashi Yayoi (Sumida Rin, 74 mins), Yamaguchi Mami (Tanaka Mina, 81 mins)
Unused subs: Yamashita Ayaka, Kobayashi Miharu, Nakasato Yu
Scorers: Sakaguchi Mizuho (45 mins)
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies 2 - 2 INAC Kobe Leonessa
Two weeks after INAC Kobe came to Urawa and prevented their winning the Regular Series, the champions were back in Saitama for these sides' opening match of the Exciting Series.
In the opening stages INAC had more of the attacking opportunities, though few were clearcut. Urawa have lost their cutting edge recently and came into this game without a goal in four matches. However, in the All-Star game both Kira and Goto scored and they will have regained confidence going into this important opening game.
With twenty minutes played INAC were generally in control of the game, even if Hirao in the Urawa goal had not been unduly troubled, and the home side were struggling to find even half-chances at shooting.
Polkinghorne had two chances for INAC Kobe, both headers from set plays and though she missed with both (the first was offside) Urawa looked defensively suspect from dead-ball situations.
Urawa's free scoring in some games was largely due to the opposition playing a high line, but INAC were having none of that and made Urawa work very hard in tight areas to make openings, and after thirty minutes they finally started making inroads, and after a few good chances took the lead. Kira did very well at the goal line, beating Polkinghorne and Isokane, putting the ball across the face of goal at pace, and when it came out to Kato off Kaihori, she made no mistake and Urawa had the lead.
INAC tried to get back into the game in the minutes before half-time, but looked like a team that has the individuals required but not the cohesion. Polkinghorne, making her last appearance, was replaced at half-time by Watanabe Ayaka as INAC tried to fix the problems they were having at left back.
A few minutes into the second half Masuya dribbled well and got a shot off, but this highlighted one of INAC's problems: there were no supporting players up with her and her speculative effort was no danger to Hirao Chika - her former team mate at the JFA Academy Fukushima. INAC eventually started to link up well in midfield, spreading the play wider and their persistence paid off when Takase pulled a goal back on sixty-three minutes after she was sent clear by Nakada, with Usui well beaten for pace.
With Urawa again stifled in attack, INAC Kobe brought on speedy forward Ito Miki in place of Masuya Rika. Urawa's attacking intent had dissipated significantly since half-time, with recent insecurities leading to increased caution.
Usui Rie was injured in a collision with Ito, and was replaced by Wada Naoko after 78 minutes. Entering the final stages Urawa were hanging on as best they could, the flow of the play in the second half a complete reverse to that of the first.
Urawa did begin to create chances again, and the exhausted Kira came off for Seike Kiko with eight minutes remaining, as confidence began to be seen in the home side's ranks. Kato Chika likewise came off as the game entered additional time, with INAC's players becoming more frustrated with themselves.
With just seconds of additional time remaining, Kishikawa handled in the area to give away a penalty kick and Takase scored with almost the last kick of the game to win a point for INAC Kobe.
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: Wada Naoko (Usui Rie, 78 mins), Seike Kiko (Kira Chinatsu, 83 mins), Saito Akane (Kato Chika, 90+1 mins)
Unused subs: Ikeda Sakiko, Sakamoto Riho, Nagano Fuka, Otaki Ami
Scorers: Kato Chika (30 mins), Kira Chinatsu (44 mins)
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Noguchi Ayaka, Kai Junko, Clare Polkinghorne, Isokane Midori, Kyokawa Mai, Nakajima Emi, Sawa Homare, Nakada Ayu, Masuya Rika, Takase Megumi (capt)
Subs: Watanabe Ayaka (Clare Polkinghorne, HT), Ito Miki (Masuya Rika, 70 mins), Miyake Shiori (Nakajima Emi, 90+2 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Minamiyama Chiaki
Scorers: Takase Megumi (63, 90+4 mins, pen)
AS Elfen Saitama 2 - 1 Iga FC Kunoichi
Having beaten Saitama twice, with 4-0 and 4-1 scorelines, Iga would have felt confident of beating their relegation rivals in this opening Lower Section fixture. With their Australian players returning home, Kobayashi Misaki came into their defence.
Iga got off to a good start, and dominated the goal-scoring chances. They took the lead through Miyasako Tamami, who intercepted the ball on the half-way line and then danced through the defence to score a very fine goal.
The visitors lead at half-time, but six minutes after the restart veteran Ito Kanako equalised when she followed up a poor defensive header in the box. Iga continued to create most of the chances but repeatedly came up short.
In the final seconds of additional time came the decisive goal, not just in this game but possibly in both teams' seasons. Takeyama crossed into the box from the left and another poor defensive header presented Azami with the opportunity to score, and she made no mistake.
This win puts Saitama four points ahead of Iga, and gives the home side a huge advantage leading into the final games. Iga must try to recover against Vegalta Sendai next weekend, though their recent play suggests difficulties. Saitama will again expect to beat Kibi at home on Sunday, another step towards safety.
AS Elfen Saitama:
Yamago Nozomi (capt), Akitaya Misato, Takeda Arisa, Takahashi Yuko, Takeyama Yuko, Hagiwara Aimi, Ito Kanako, Nara Misaki, Azami Rie, Arakawa Eriko, Suzuki Kaoruko
Subs: Takahashi Kaho (Suzuki Kaoruko, HT), Nakano Rino (Nara Misaki, 61 mins)
Unused subs: Funada Mayu, Hara Ayumi, Saito Yuri, Sugiyama Takako, Sarah Gregorius
Scorers: Ito Kanako (51 mins), Azami Rie (90+2 mins)
Iga FC Kunoichi:
Kuno Fubuki, Miyasako Tamami, Michikura Hiroko, Ohashi Mio, Kobayashi Misaki, Nasu Maiko (capt), Matsunaga Tomoe, Kobayashi Makiko, Tsutsumi Saki, Matsunaga Yoshie, Ogawa Shiho
Subs: Sugita Ami (Matsunaga Yoshie, 54 mins), Haji Madoka (Tsutsumi Saki, 71 mins)
Unused subs: Takahashi Miharu, Sato Ai, Sonomura Nana
Scorers: Miyasako Tamami (26 mins)
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme 0 - 4 Vegalta Sendai Ladies
Vegalta Sendai were naturally upset at not having made the top six for the Exciting Series, but got off to a perfect start in the Lower Section as they again easily beat Kibi away 4-0. Kakazu Asuka opened the scoring on seven minutes, Kibi again unable to keep a tight defence, with Yoshitake in particular suffering in central defence.
Vegalta scored their second on 58 minutes, local player Ono Hitomi scoring her fourth of the season before they added two more in the closing minutes through Hamada Haruka who is showing promise up front, and through Kawamura Yuri, who has thus far thoroughly enjoyed her first season in Miyagi.
Vegalta are at home next week when they take on Iga, with Kibi away to Saitama.
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme:
Isashi Kaede, Akatsu Yuri, Yoshitake Manami, Muramatsu Mafuyu, Nagano Momoko, Takano Saki, Takatsuka Ayane, Nishikawa Asuka, Hamamoto Marin, Komatsu Mina, Takahashi Chiho (capt)
Subs: Tajima Mitsuyo (Takatsuka Ayane, 69 mins), Eguchi Mika (Hamamoto Marin, 69 mins), Miyake Ayumi (Akatsu Yuri, 76 mins)
Unused subs: Fujita Suzuka, Sekiguchi Mayu, Oka Misako, Kanbara Misaki
Vegalta Sendai Ladies:
Saito Ayaka, Takara Ryoko, Yamamoto Risa, Osafune Kana, Sameshima Aya, Tahara Nozomi, Kawamura Yuri, Uetsuji Yumi (capt), Kakazu Asuka, Ono Hitomi, Koyama Kie
Subs: Hamada Haruka (Koyama Kie, HT), Irie Miki (Tahara Nozomi, 65 mins), Kawashima Haruna (Ono Hitomi, 76 mins)
Unused subs: Saita Yuki, Sasaki Mayu
Scorers: Kakazu Asuka (7 mins), Ono Hitomi (58 mins), Hamada Haruka (84 mins), Kawamura Yuri (89 mins)