Okayama Yunogo Belle 2 - 1 AS Elfen Saitama
In front of their smallest home league attendance since the World Cup, Okayama Yunogo Belle recovered from a recent poor run of one point from three games to take all three points from their tie with AS Elfen Saitama, though it took a penalty with two minutes remaining to do so.
Miyama Aya was again Belle's provider of both an assist and a goal, and this season she has provided twelve assists and eight goals to underline her importance to the team. Like in last week's game against Vegalta Sendai, Nakano Manami got her head on the end of a Miyama ball to give Belle the lead. This time Miyama struck the free kick from well outside of dangerous range but the Saitama defence, poor for much of the season, again did little to disrupt the path of the ball and Nakano had little to do but direct the ball home.
Saitama surprised both Niigata and JEF United in the previous two games and in this game too they fought back well, veteran Ito Kanako equalising in the 59th minute with her first goal in over a month. Suzuki Kaoruko put Ito through with a perfect through pass and Ito showed her skill in finishing well past Fukumoto, who had made numerous fine saves in the first half.
With two minutes remaining Belle retook the lead from the spot. From another free kick, Miyama again looked for Nakano who was pulled down in the area by substitute Takahashi Kaho. The referee didn't hesitate to give the penalty kick and Miyama didn't hesitate to score well past Yamago for the winning goal.
This win means that Belle can still finish the Regular Series on top, though they will need favours from elsewhere. They next host Niigata, who themselves have a slim chance of finishing top, next Sunday. Saitama travel to Kobe to take on the champions.
Okayama Yunogo Belle:
Fukumoto Miho, Kado Yuka, Hosokawa Motoyo, Mizushima Kumi, Takahashi Sachie, Kuzuma Riyo, Nakano Manami, Miyama Aya, Asano Miki, Arimachi Saori, Matsuoka Miki
Subs: Fushiki Kaho (Hosokawa Motoyo, 90 mins), Nakada Maiko (Asano Miki, 90+2 mins)
Unused subs: Taniguchi Kikumi, Kitaura Miho, Kawano Saki, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Nakano Manami (39 mins), Miyama Aya (88 mins, pen)
AS Elfen Saitama:
Yamago Nozomi, 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, 59 mins), Takahashi Kaho (Nara Misaki, 67 mins)
Unused subs: Funada Mayu, Akitaya Misato, Saito Yuri
Scorers: Ito Kanako (59 mins)
Booked: Takahashi Kaho
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies 0 - 0 Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies
A surprisingly large crowd turned out to see JEF United and Urawa play out a scoreless draw - of which that was the second of two in a row for Urawa, and and the second from three for JEF United. It was a result neither really wanted, but they will be relatively happy knowing that their destiny is in their own hands.
Ikadai Risa was lively for the home side though she has only scored thrice this season and was unable to add to that. For Urawa it was their midfield that produced the most promising opportunities, though they too were unable to make the breakthrough.
Urawa have two difficult final games, away to Vegalta Sendai before taking on INAC Kobe at home, with their opening day away victory still resonant. JEF United face Vegalta Sendai on the final day and that may decide which of the two plays for the title, regardless of the result from their next match, away to Iga on Saturday afternoon.
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Yamane Erina, Wakabayashi Minori, Sakuramoto Naoko (capt), Chino Shoko, Ueno Saki, Hosaka Nodoka, Setoguchi Kozue, Kawamura Mari, Fukasawa Risa, Ikadai Risa, Sugasawa Yuika
Subs: Anzai Yuka (Hosaka Nodoka, 61 mins), Kamogawa Miho (Ikadai Risa, 77 mins)
Unused subs: Nemoto Mio, Tsurumi Ayaka, Oya Madoka, Matsuura Nagisa, Hanagiri Naomi
Booked: Fukasawa Risa
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies:
Hirao Chika, Dozono Ayano, Norimatsu Ruka, Kohata Shiho, Wada Naoko, Shibata Hanae, Naomoto Hikaru, Kishikawa Natsuki, Kato Chika, Kira Chinatsu, Goto Michi (capt)
Subs: Seike Kiko (Kira Chinatsu, 57 mins), Otaki Ami (Kato Chika, 77 mins), Usui Rie (Wada Naoko, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Ikeda Sakiko, Ishii Saki, Tomari Shiho, Nagano Fuka
Nippon TV Beleza 2 - 1 INAC Kobe Leonessa
Beleza did the double over INAC Kobe for the first time since 2010 to extend their unbeaten run to nine games, and simultaneously end INAC Kobe's hopes of finishing top at the end of the Regular Series.
Very few opportunities presented themselves in the first half, though Beleza were doing most of the running and in the second half two goals in the space of four minutes won the game for Beleza. Tanaka Mina, who had a poor first half of the season, scored her third in six games to hand the hosts the lead after 64 minutes.
Momiki tried to burst through the INAC defence but was withstood. Recovering the ball, she played it to the right where Hara had made her way and her cross to the far post led to a looping header from Tanaka which was just out of reach for Kaihori.
Momiki had her reward for good work on the night three minutes later when she combined with another young player for the second goal. Picking the ball up in midfield, Momiki fed Sumida Rin on the right. Space opened up for Momiki as the INAC defence momentarily migrated towards the flank where Sumida was and when Sumida gave the return Momiki had another chance to run at the defence and on this occasion she found the net to the delight of the home crowd.
INAC Kobe had a consolation deep into stoppage time, substitute Nakada Ayu scoring her second off the bench - both in defeats - with a fine run down the left which has been little seen since her Tokiwagi Gakuen days.
Beleza still trail both Urawa and Belle but will be confident of beating both Kibi and Saitama and retain hope of finishing top. INAC Kobe face Saitama next before a final day trip back to Kanto to play Urawa. They now hope to move as high up the table as possible before the Exciting Series.
Nippon TV Beleza:
Soyama Kanako, Shimizu Risa, Iwashimizu Azusa (capt), Kinoshita Shiori, Ariyoshi Saori, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Hara Natsuko, Sumida Rin, Momiki Yuka, Nakasato Yu, Tanaka Mina
Subs: Kobayashi Yayoi (Sumida Rin, 86 mins), Yamaguchi Mami (Tanaka Mina, 89 mins)
Unused subs: Yamashita Ayaka, Doko Mayo, Kobayashi Miharu, Takahashi Saori, Shimada Chiaki
Scorers: Tanaka Mina (64 mins), Momiki Yuka (67 mins)
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Clare Polkinghorne, Kai Junko, Miyake Shiori, Noguchi Ayaka, Sawa Homare, Isokane Midori, Watanabe Ayaka, Kyokawa Mai, Takase Megumi (capt), Nakajima Emi
Subs: Ito Miki (Watanabe Ayaka, 63 mins), Masuya Rika (Kyokawa Mai, 63 mins), Nakada Ayu (Isokane Midori, 84 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Minamiyama Chiaki
Scorers: Nakada Ayu (90+3 mins)
Iga FC Kunoichi 3 - 0 FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme
Earlier in the season Iga had let 2-0 and 3-1 leads slip against Kibi as the students picked up their only point of the season so far, but there was to be no recovery this time and Iga cruised to a 3-0 win in the heavy rain to pick up an important three points with two games remaining.
Ogawa Shiho had thus far scored just once this season, but her two goals in the first half were enough to effectively kill off Kibi long before the final whistle. For the first, a free kick into the box from Kellond-Knight pinged around between attackers and defenders before Ogawa swooped to score the opener after 29 minutes. Her second came nine minutes later, as she raced onto a long punted clearance from goalkeeper Kuno. For their part Kibi had brought Eguchi Mika, who had hitherto played in defence for Kibi, but who was Je Vrille Kagoshima's goalkeeper in 2012. They had also switched forward Adachi Eriko to defence, where she played for Aguilas Kobe in 2010.
Kibi's changes simply didn't work and they produced almost no chances in front of goal. With ten minutes remaining their recent graduate, and the player they've missed most this season, Sugita Ami, scored her fourth of the season. Opposing goalkeeper Morimoto Kiyo, who had come on at half-time, made a decent save but her kick out went straight to Sugita, who scored with a marvellous shot from distance.
The sides will meet again twice in the Exciting Stage. For that, Kibi look to continue their preparation against Beleza and Belle, agaisnt neither of whom are they likely to be competitive. Iga play JEF United and then Niigata, and for Iga those games will also be difficult.
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 Tomoe, HT), Haji Madoka (Matsunaga Yoshie, 71 mins), Tameka Butt (Tsutsumi Saki, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Sawada Norimi, Nishino Yuka, Kiyohara Marie, Sonomura Nana
Scorers: Ogawa Shiho (29, 38 mins), Sugita Ami (80 mins)
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme:
Eguchi Mika, Adachi Eriko, Noma Fumika, Kadota Rui, Asai Sakura, Nishikawa Asuka, Yoshitake Manami, Takatsuka Ayane, Takano Saki, Nagano Momoko, Kurakazu Shiho
Subs: Takahashi Chiho (Takatsuka Ayane, HT), Morimoto Kiyo (Adachi Eriko, HT), Hamamoto Marin (Kurakazu Shiho, 81 mins)
Unused subs: Isashi Kaede, Oka Misako, Muramatsu Mafuyu, Tajima Mitsuyo
Booked: Asai Sakura
Albirex Niigata Ladies 1 - 0 Vegalta Sendai Ladies
A Sakaguchi Moeno goal after 35 minutes, her third in two games, was enough to give Niigata a vital win over Vegalta Sendai, guaranteeing their participation in the title-chasing top six Exciting League, with the visitors in trouble and in desperate need of points.
Sakaguchi herself started the move which led to the goal, knocking the ball forward to Takahashi Haruka who turned in the box and played the ball square for Sakaguchi who had made up a tremendous amount of ground in a short time and she slammed the ball home past Saita.
Vegalta Sendai find themselves in sixth, but with JEF United just behind them and must focus all of their energies into beating Urawa on Sunday. A win there would probably be enough to keep them in the top six, as JEF have a worse goal difference, with the two sides meeting on the final day. Niigata can still finish top in two games' time, but this is unlikely and they will focus on picking up as many points as possible to keep a top four ranking. They next travel west to play Belle on Sunday, with their final game at home to Iga.
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: Takamura Chisato (Obara Yuria, HT), Kubota Mayu (Oishi Sayaka, 70 mins), Kodama Keiko (Saeki Aya, 77 mins)
Unused subs: Koganemaru Sachie, Yamamoto Arina, Shimokawa Saori, Yamada Shoko
Scorers: Sakaguchi Moeno (35 mins)
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: Ono Hitomi (Kakazu Asuka, HT), Tahara Nozomi (Inoue Ayaka, 59 mins), Takahashi Nana (Takara Ryoko, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Saito Ayaka, Kawashima Haruna, Irie Miki, Koyama Kie