Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies 4 - 1 Okayama Yunogo Belle
Having been easily beaten by Beleza in extraordinarily wet conditions last weekend, Belle were anxious to get back to winning ways against the side which had overtaken them at the top of the table. Urawa were naturally in no mood to allow this to happen.
Both sides showed adventure and ambition in the early stages and it was no surprise that a goal was scored in the first ten minutes. From a throw-in, Matsuoka got ahead of her marker and turned the ball in at the near corner to give Belle a 1-0 lead.
Urawa looked repeatedly to attack from all angles, with Goto, Shibata and Naomoto in particular looking to create openings. The equaliser was bound to come, and it did so in the 23rd minute, when Wada Naoko hit a speculative shot from the left after her earlier cross has caused confusion in the box.
Urawa continued to look the side more likely to score, as Belle found themselves outfoxed in midfield repeatedly, with some last-ditch blocks required to keep the scores level. Most notably, with three minutes to run to half-time Shibata Hanae had a shot cleared away when Fukumoto was beaten.
Neither side made a change at half-time, and Urawa came out attacking with the same ferocity they had ended the first half with. Belle by contrast looked for hopeful balls into the box to try to create an opening to score, and showed a clear lack of sophistication in their midfield play.
Kishikawa had a great chance to score but was denied by Miyama Aya and a few minutes later Shibata screwed a shot badly wide when presented with a clear shooting chance. Seike Kiko had just come on for Kira Chinatsu to add new impetus to the attack, which Belle were struggling to contain. Belle, for their part, had brought on the powerful Fushiki Kaho for Kitaura Miho.
Last weeks's late goalscorer Otaki Ami came on for the last twelve minutes or so, as Urawa continued to pepper Fukumoto's goal with shots, though Belle did create some danger at the other end on occasion.
Just as it looked that Belle may hang on for a draw, a ball from the left found its way to the right post where Shibata Hanae was waiting and though she didn't get a clean strike on the ball it trickled over the line away from the despairing reach of Fukumoto Miho.
The tension relieved, Urawa eventually ran away with the game, this year's new sensation Seike Kiko scoring twice, the first from the spot when she herself was fouled and the second after a dazzling mazy run down the left.
Urawa look good for the title as long as they can maintain their momentum. Next up on Monday is Albirex Niigata Ladies, who were easily beaten by JEF United. For Belle, a win over INAC Kobe is now a necessity. Anything less and their chances of a first title will look more than unlikely.
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, 72 mins), Otaki Ami (Kato Chika, 77 mins), Saito Akane (Goto Michi, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Ikeda Sakiko, Suzuki Rina, Tomari Shiho, Nagano Fuka
Scorers: Wada Naoko (23 mins), Shibata Hanae (83 mins), Seike Kiko (85 mins (pen), 86 mins)
Okayama Yunogo Belle:
Fukumoto Miho (capt), Kado Yuka, Kitaura Miho, Mizushima Kumi, Takahashi Sachie, Kuzuma Riyo, Nakano Manami, Miyama Aya, Asano Miki, Arimachi Saori, Matsuoka Miki
Subs: Fushiki Kaho (Kitaura Miho, 67 mins)
Unused subs: Aoyagi Maririn, Taniguchi Kikumi, Kawano Saki, Nakada Maiko, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Matsuoka Miki (8 mins)
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies 5 - 1 Albirex Niigata Ladies
Niigata have been poor in the Exciting Series, picking up just two points from their four games and having beaten JEF United twice in the Regular Series, will have been shocked to have lost so heavily. JEF United's five goal tally was their highest of the season so far, and will give them a huge boost in advance of their home tie against Beleza.
The home side got off to a flying start, Sugasawa Yuika scoring after just four minutes from a corner kick. Niigata equalised after eighteen minutes though, Saito Yuri scoring her fourth goal this year and it looked like it would turn out to be a largely even contest.
A goal two minutes before the break changed the game, as Sugasawa scored again. In the second half JEF United simply pulled away from Niigata, scoring thrice more, including another for Sugasawa as she completed her hat-trick. Fukasawa and Ikadai also scored, with Sugasawa assisting on that final goal.
As mentioned, JEF United host Beleza, while Niigata are at home to leaders Urawa, and will need to see an immediate improvement if they are to take anything from that game.
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Yamane Erina, Wakabayashi Minori, Sakuramoto Naoko (capt), Oya Madoka, Ueno Saki, Setoguchi Kozue, Kawamura Mari, Anzai Yuka, Fukasawa Risa, Kamogawa Miho, Sugasawa Yuika
Subs: Ikadai Risa (Kamogawa Miho, HT), Hosaka Nodoka (Anzai Yuka, 81 mins), Shimada Ayako (Sugasawa Yuika, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Nemoto Mio, Tsurumi Ayaka, Chino Shoko, Matsuura Nagisa
Scorers: Sugasawa Yuika (4, 43, 54 mins), Fukasawa Risa (49 mins), Ikadai Risa (82 mins)
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Ichitani Tomoko, Obara Yuria, Kitahara Kana, Yamamoto Arina, Kojima Miku, Takahashi Haruka, Saito Yuri, Sakaguchi Moeno, Kamionobe Megumi, Saeki Aya, Oishi Sayaka
Subs: Sayama Momoko (Kojima Miku, HT), Yamazaki Marumi (Oishi Sayaka, 56 mins), Tiffany McCarty (Sakaguchi Moeno, 71 mins)
Unused subs: Koganemaru Sachie, Kodama Keiko
Scorers: Saito Yuri (18 mins)
Booked: Ichitani Tomoko
INAC Kobe Leonessa 0 - 2 Nippon TV Beleza
Beleza triumphed over INAC Kobe for the third time this season, as the champions look even less likely to retain the title with each passing match. Beleza kept the same starting lineup from their win over Belle though INAC made two changes, Kai Junko returning to defensive duties with Masuya Rika coming in for Kyokawa Mai up front. New loan signing Chelsea Stewart was not in the squad
The game was scoreless at half-time, with shooting opportunities in short supply, though for the home side Masuya was her usual lively self. For Beleza Sakaguchi looked to shoot whenever presented with the chance to do so. Beleza looked the more cohesive team and made better openings as the half drew on, with their young players such as Shimizu, Hasegawa and Sumida as impressive as always. Although INAC Kobe had started brightly, they were ultimately restricted to just two shots at goal.
The game was begging for a goal following the first half stalemate, and Sakaguchi was the one to oblige five minutes into the second half. As she has done so often, she leapt high and purposefully in the box to head home a a corner kick taken by Momiki Yuka.
INAC Kobe attempted to get themselves back into the game immediately, but Beleza have been well drilled defensively and there were few avenues down which they could thread the ball. At the other end they continued to play their effective brand of possession football with Momiki hungry to score. With thirty minutes to play Kiryu Nanase came on for Yamaguchi Mami. INAC Kobe also took the chance to make a change, Nakada replacing Masuya, who had been kept largely quiet in the second half.
It was Kiryu with her first goal since returning from the US who would score the decisive goal, striking well into the bottom right corner of the net after a sublime backheel into her path from Momiki.
INAC Kobe again looked to up their game, with Takase and Kawasumi in a fighting mood, but there remained little of the penetration we have seen in recent years, and Beverly Goebel-Yanez was largely anonymous, with few opportunities to get into scoring positions. For Beleza, Kiryu looked extremely lively and ambitious and her stint in the NWSL with Sky Blue seems to have given her increased confidence.
Sakaguchi was booked for a foul on Sawa Homare with ten minutes remaining, though the free kick came to nothing. Indeed it was a feature of this game that with their regular free kick taker Nakajima Emi out injured, the quality from deal balls was poor.
Tanaka Yoko came on for Watanabe Ayaka in the 82nd minute, which meant barely any time for her to make an impact, or even to get many touches on the ball. In the end, INAC Kobe were well beaten, and Beleza deserved to take all three points back to Tokyo.
INAC Kobe next face Okayama Yunogo Belle on Monday desperately in need of a win to keep their hopes of another title alive. Beleza travel the relatively short distance to Chiba to take on a resurgent JEF United, who themselves need a win to retain hopes of a first title.
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Kai Junko, Isokane Midori, Miyake Shiori, Watanabe Ayaka, Kawasumi Nahomi, Sawa Homare, Minamiyama Chiaki, Masuya Rika, Takase Megumi (capt), Beverly Goebel-Yanez
Subs: Nakada Ayu (Masuya Rika, 62 mins), Tanaka Yoko (Watanabe Ayaka, 82 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Noguchi Ayaka, Kyokawa Mai
Nippon TV Beleza:
Soyama Kanako, Shimizu Risa, Iwashimizu Azusa, Kinoshita Shiori, Ariyoshi Saori, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Hara Natsuko, Sumida Rin, Momiki Yuka, Hasegawa Yui, Yamaguchi Mami
Subs: Kiryu Nanase (Yamaguchi Mami, 61 mins), Tanaka Mina (Hasegawa Yui, 90+1 mins)
Unused subs: Yamashita Ayaka, Kobayashi Miharu, Kobayashi Yayoi
Scorers: Sakaguchi Mizuho (50 mins), Kiryu Nanase (65 mins)
Booked: Sakaguchi Mizuho
Iga FC Kunoichi 0 - 1 AS Elfen Saitama
Iga have been on course for a relegation play-off for some time and this loss to Saitama confirmed that they will need to overcome either Takatsuki or Nojima to remain in the top division. Although of their two new loan signings Kristie Mewis was not available, Rachel Van Hollebeke started and played for the first seventy minutes. A through ball from Hagiwara found Azami Rie in lots of space behind the Iga defence and her pass across the face of goal was bundled home by Sugiyama to the obvious delight of the Saitama team.
Iga were unable to equalise and having so easily beaten Saitama in their first meeting this year will have been horrified to see their nearest rivals overtake them so comfortably.
Iga next play Vegalta Sendai at home and will look to bring in both Americans in advance of the play-offs. Saitama can now relax and look forward to their game in Tsuyama against Kibi with few worries.
Iga FC Kunoichi:
Kuno Fubuki, Miyasako Tamami, Rachel Van Hollebeke, Nasu Maiko (capt), Ohashi Mio, Shimizu Akane, Matsunaga Tomoe, Haji Madoka, Matsunaga Yoshie, Tsutsumi Saki, Sugita Ami
Subs: Ogawa Shiho (Tsutsumi Saki, 68 mins), Kobayashi Misaki (Rachel Van Hollebeke, 70 mins), Kobayashi Makiko (Haji Madoka, 83 mins)
Unused subs: Sawada Norimi, Sato Ai, Noichi Aya, Sonomura Nana
AS Elfen Saitama:
Yamago Nozomi, Akitaya Misato, Saito Natsumi, Takahashi Yuko, Takeyama Yuko, Hagiwara Aimi, Ito Kanako, Sarah Gregorius, Azami Rie, Arakawa Eriko, Suzuki Kaoruko
Subs: Takahashi Kaho (Sarah Gregorius, HT), Sugiyama Takako (Suzuki Kaoruko, 67 mins)
Unused subs: Funada Mayu, Takeda Arisa, Nakano Rino
Scorers: Sugiyama Takako (74 mins)
Booked: Akitaya Misato, Takahashi Kaho
Vegalta Sendai Ladies 3 - 0 FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme
Kibi's relegation from the top division was finally confirmed in Kakuda today though they did play some of their best football this season. Vegalta Sendai will have been pleased to maintain their 100% record in the Exciting Series. Takara Ryoko followed up on her goal from last weekend with another good strike after twenty-nine minutes which dampened Kibi spirits.
Three minutes after the restart a mistake from Kibi goalkeeper Isashi Kaede allowed Kawashima Haruka to score into an unguarded net from a Hamada Haruka cross. With ten minutes remaining Irie Miki scored her first ever league goal, with Hamada supply her third assist of the game. The only other point of note was that Tokiwagi Gakuen graduate Sasaki Miwa's made her first Nadeshiko League appearance.
Kibi will now look towards the inter-collegiate tournament in January, following the end of this Nadeshiko League season and the Empress' Cup. They play Saitama on Sunday. Vegalta Sendai will expect to keep up their 100% record as they visit Iga.
Vegalta Sendai Ladies:
Saita Yuki (capt), Sakai Yuki, Osafune Kana, Ideue Asako, Sameshima Aya, Takara Ryoko, Kawamura Yuri, Uetsuji Yumi, Kakazu Asuka, Hamada Haruka, Kawashima Haruna
Subs: Sasaki Mayu (Uetsuji Yumi, HT), Irie Miki (Sakai Yuki, 60 mins), Sasaki Miwa (Kawashima Haruna, 86 mins)
Unused subs: Saito Ayaka, Yamamoto Risa, Takahashi Nana, Tahara Nozomi
Scorers: Takara Ryoko (29 mins), Kawashima Haruna (48 mins), Irie Miki (80 mins)
FC Kibikokusaidaigaku Charme:
Isashi Kaede, Muramatsu Mafuyu, Noma Fumika, Mukai Satsuki, Yoshitake Manami, Takano Saki, Miyake Ayumi, Watanabe Kazumi, Kurakazu Shiho, Kanbara Misaki, Takahashi Chiho (capt)
Subs: Komatsu Mina (Watanabe Kazumi, 63 mins), Nishikawa Asuka (Miyake Ayumi, 63 mins)
Unused subs: Morimoto Kiyo, Eguchi Mika, Takatsuka Ayane