INAC Kobe Leonessa 0 - 0 Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies
With just two games remaining and a five-point gap back to Beleza, Urawa came to Kobe knowing that another win over their hosts would win them the title for the first time since 2009. Urawa made just one change, putting loanee goalkeeper Hirao Chika back between the posts. INAC Kobe made a few changes, moving Nakajima into defence, Masuya and Goebel-Yanez into midfield and starting with Nakada up front.
Three successive corners for Urawa provided the first chances for them to go ahead, and although none came to anything, INAC's defence already looked unsure of itself. INAC moved menacingly upfield and Hirao had to be quick to react to Masuya's shot after she failed to gather a Nakada cross cleanly.
In the fifteenth minute INAC broke again after sustained Urawa pressure, and Wada had to be alert to clear away for another corner, which ultimately led to another corner kick, though again Urawa marked up well and Masuya could only poke wide.
Urawa continued to shoot whenever the opportunity presented itself, though Kaihori was rarely troubled, though they were playing the better football and were creating openings from more angles than INAC Kobe, who again looked to attack in a more direct fashion.
Miscontrol from Wada led to another INAC corner kick which came to nothing. Naomoto Hikaru was substituted at this point, having suffered an injury, with young Nagano Fuka coming on to replace her in only her second league appearance.
Dozono went down following a hard challenge in the thirty-fourth minute, prompting some concern but she was fine after some stretching, and INAC's tough challenges continued as the half progressed. In the forty-third minute Urawa won another corner but again this came to nothing, and the outstanding feature of the first half was the lack of danger created from set pieces.
At half-time the teams were level, just as they were in the other two games, which meant that were the scores to stay the same Urawa would win the league. Neither side made a change at half-time.
The first ten minutes after the restart were largely incident free, until Masuya wriggled clear to get a shot on goal, which was palmed away by former JFA Academy schoolmate Hirao Chika for another INAC Kobe corner kick which came to nothing.
Takase shot into the side netting on sixty-three minutes, and at the other end Kira blasted over following good work between herself and Kato on the left. After sixty-seven minutes Masuya came off, and was replaced by Tanaka Yoko.
Kira came off to be replaced by Seike Kiko in the seventy-third minute, who made an immediate impact in her first appearance here at the start of the season. In the eightieth minute she had a tremendous chance to score but her shot was just tipped wide by Kaihori, though a corner wasn't given. At this point Chelsea Stewart came on for Nakada Ayu for INAC Kobe.
Seike and Goto in particular continued to cause trouble for INAC, though there was the feeling that they would be happy with a draw as time started to run out. Saito Akane came on for Kato Chika with a minute to go further suggesting that the visitors were happy to see the game out.
INAC Kobe too looked in little hurry to go for all-out attack and the game ended scoreless. Urawa thus lead Beleza by three points with just their home game against Niigata to come. Beleza are eight goals behind in terms of goal difference and it would be astonishing if they could not only make up the three points but also the goal difference.
Beleza travel west to Okayama to play the demoralised Belle, with the final game between the bottom two in Chiba.
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Nakajima Emi, Isokane Midori, Miyake Shiori, Minamiyama Chiaki, Sawa Homare, Beverly Goebel-Yanez, Masuya Rika, Kawasumi Nahomi, Takase Megumi (capt), Nakada Ayu
Subs: Tanaka Yoko (Masuya Rika, 67 mins), Chelsea Stewart (Nakada Ayu, 80 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Watanabe Ayaka, Noguchi Ayaka, Kyokawa Mai, Michigami Ayaka
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: Nagano Fuka (Naomoto Hikaru, 26 mins), Seike Kiko (Kira Chinatsu, 74 mins), Saito Akane (Kato Chika, 89 mins)
Unused subs: Ikeda Sakiko, Suzuki Rina, Tomari Shiho, Otaki Ami
Nippon TV Beleza 1 - 0 JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies
Beleza have at times this season had trouble scoring when on top, and again today they had to wait until the seventy-second minute for the winning goal against JEF United, Sumida Rin the scorer. Sumida played in a free kick which wasn't an attempt at goal but with everyone including JEF United's goalkeeper Yamane missing it, the ball found its way in to the far corner.
Beleza will ultimately be disappointed by this result. Their only chance now of winning the league is to not only beat Belle next weekend but also to hope that Niigata beat Urawa. While this scenario would not be particularly surprising, Urawa's eight goal lead over Beleza in goal difference is very unlikely to be challenged.
All three games next weekend kick off at 1 pm. Beleza are already guaranteed to finish second and are unlikely to win. JEF United stand fifth at the moment and a draw is all they need against INAC Kobe to remain in that position.
Nippon TV Beleza:
Yamashita Ayaka, Shimizu Risa, Iwashimizu Azusa (capt), Kinoshita Shiori, Ariyoshi Saori, Hara Natsuko, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Sumida Rin, Momiki Yuka, Hasegawa Yui, Shimada Chiaki
Subs: Kobayashi Yayoi (Momiki Yuka, 90 mins)
Unused subs: Soyama Kanako, Muramatsu Tomoko, Nakasato Yu, Kobayashi Miharu, Fukumaru Tomoko, Tanaka Mina
Scorers: Sumida Rin (72 mins)
JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies:
Yamane Erina, Sakuramoto Naoko (capt), Chino Shoko, Oya Madoka, Ueno Saki, Setoguchi Kozue, Kawamura Mari, Anzai Yuka, Fukasawa Risa, Ikadai Risa, Sugasawa Yuika
Subs: Hosaka Nodoka (Setoguchi Kozue, 65 mins), Hanagiri Naomi (Anzai Yuka, 82 mins), Tsurumi Ayaka (Ikadai Risa, 85 mins)
Unused subs: Nemoto Mio, Wakabayashi Minori, Matsuura Nagisa, Yasuda Saki
Booked: Sakuramoto Naoko
Albirex Niigata Ladies 5 - 1 Okayama Yunogo Belle
For the first time this season, Okayama Yunogo Belle made significant changes to their starting lineup, with Taniguchi Kikumi, Nakada Maiko and Kawano Saki coming into the side, with only Kawano having previously started. Niigata started with a much more familiar eleven, and today they continued their recent good form to win their third game in a row, having previously failed to win any of the Exciting Series games.
Matsuoka Miki has had a good season again this year, and she put the visitors 1-0 up after just nine minutes, with Niigata not equalising until just before half-time, Kamionobe Megumi scoring just her first of the Exciting Series to add to her five from the Regular Series.
In the second half of this game, just as against Urawa, Belle created little in front of goal and Niigata simply dominated. They took the lead through McCarty twelve minutes in, with Kojima Miku adding her first in the Nadeshiko League seven minutes later. Substitute Yamazaki Marumi scored twice in the last ten minutes to inflict upon Belle their worst defeat of the season.
Niigata are now assured of a best-ever fourth place finish. Belle will have to settle for at best third, and could still be overtaken by Niigata if they win next weekend and Belle lose.
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Ichitani Tomoko, Obara Yuria, Kitahara Kana, Yamamoto Arina, Kojima Miku, Saito Yuri, Takahashi Haruka, Sakaguchi Moeno, Kamionobe Megumi (capt), Saeki Aya, Tiffany McCarty
Subs: Yamazaki Marumi (Sakaguchi Moeno, 61 mins), Oishi Sayaka (Tiffany McCarty, 68 mins), Sayama Momoko (Kojima Miku, 82 mins)
Unused subs: Takahashi Tomoko, Okakura Mika, Yamada Shoko, Kubota Mayu
Scorers: Kamionobe Megumi (45 mins), Tiffany McCarty (57 mins), Kojima Miku (64 mins), Yamazaki Marumi (83, 89 mins)
Okayama Yunogo Belle:
Fukumoto Miho (capt), Taniguchi Kikumi, Kawano Saki, Mizushima Kumi, Takahashi Sachie, Kuzuma Riyo, Nakano Manami, Miyama Aya, Nakada Maiko, Arimachi Saori, Matsuoka Miki
Subs: Fushiki Kaho (Taniguchi Kikumi, 67 mins), Asano Miki (Nakada Maiko, 68 mins)
Unused subs: Aoyagi Maririn, Kado Yuka, Kitaura Miho, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Matsuoka Miki (9 mins)