Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies 2 - 1 JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies
On a very wet day in Saitama, Urawa again showed character in coming from behind to beat JEF United to boost their title hopes considerably. Sugasawa Yuika's twentieth goal of the season had given the visitors hope of an upset, as she punished Usui for sloppiness on the ball to race through on goal and beat Hirao with a fine shot into the roof of the net.
For the remainder of the game though, the visitors saw very few chances to score and they continued their pattern of conceding goals in the second half. First Kishikawa Natsuki equalised for Urawa from the spot for a handball offence, though JEF felt harshly done by as the ball had hit off the top of Sakuramoto's shoulder. Thirteen minutes later Urawa had the lead, Kato Chika scoring at the far post from a Kira cross, with neither Sakuramoto nor Wakabayashi Minori able to get close enough to cut the ball out.
Next up for Urawa is a significant challenge in the form of a visit to Okayama to take on their nearest rivals. A win would make them heavy favourites to win the league, a loss and once again the race is wide open. JEF United look to recover away to Niigata.
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, HT), Seike Kiko (Kira Chinatsu, 75 mins), Sakamoto Riho (Kato Chika, 85 mins)
Unused subs: Ikeda Sakiko, Saito Akane, Nagano Fuka, Otaki Ami
Scorers: Kishikawa Natsuki (55 mins, pen), Kato Chika (68 mins)
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, 60 mins), Tsurumi Ayaka (Setoguchi Kozue, 80 mins), Kamogawa Miho (Sugasawa Yuika, 85 mins)
Unused subs: Nemoto Mio, Oya Madoka, Matsuura Nagisa, Hanagiri Naomi
Scorers: Sugasawa Yuika (11 mins)
Booked: Ueno Saki
Nippon TV Beleza 1 - 2 Albirex Niigata Ladies
Niigata's first win of the Exciting Series dealt a critical blow to Beleza's hopes of a first league title since 2010, with just three games remaining.
The away side went ahead early in the game, Oishi Sayaka scoring in the sixth minute from Obara's long ball down the left, her third goal in what has been a quiet season this year. Shimada Chiaki equalised for Beleza seven minutes before half-time, with the Nittaidai graduate heading powerfully home from Hasegawa's cross.
On the balance of play Beleza will have felt they should have gone on to win the game, but it was Niigata who took all three points, with Yamazaki Marumi scoring on seventy-five minutes, fifteen minutes after replacing Oishi. It was another of Niigata's substitutes, Tiffany McCarty who did the damage though, taking a throw-in from Obara, turning well in the box and then crossing perfectly from the goal line to the waiting Yamazaki.
Beleza were unable to respond and are looking unlikely to be able to sufficiently recover to catch Urawa. They next meet INAC Kobe and a win is essential. Niigata host JEF United next week where a win is likely to give them a chance of ultimately finishing in at least the top four.
Nippon TV Beleza:
Soyama Kanako, Shimizu Risa, Iwashimizu Azusa (capt), Kinoshita Shiori, Ariyoshi Saori, Hara Natsuko, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Sumida Rin, Momiki Yuka, Hasegawa Yui, Shimada Chiaki
Subs: Kiryu Nanase (Shimada Chiaki, 57 mins), Kobayashi Yayoi (Sumida Rin, 72 mins)
Unused subs: Yamashita Ayaka, Doko Mayo, Kobayashi Miharu, Nakasato Yu, Tanaka Mina
Scorers: Shimada Chiaki (38 mins)
Albirex Niigata Ladies:
Ichitani Tomoko, Kojima Miku, Kitahara Kana, Yamamoto Arina, Obara Yuria, Takahashi Haruka, Saito Yuri, Sakaguchi Moeno, Kamionobe Megumi (capt), Saeki Aya, Oishi Sayaka
Subs: Yamazaki Marumi (Oishi Sayaka, 60 mins), Tiffany McCarty (Sakaguchi Moeno, 72 mins), Yamada Shoko (Saeki Aya, 84 mins)
Unused subs: Koganemaru Sachie, Sayama Momoko
Scorers: Oishi Sayaka (6 mins), Yamazaki Marumi (75 mins)
INAC Kobe Leonessa 1 - 1 Okayama Yunogo Belle
In poor weather conditions in Toyama, Okayama Yunogo Belle were hosted by INAC Kobe who cannot now retain the Nadeshiko League title. Belle are still very much in contention but needed to win this game to stay in touch with Urawa at the top. Their manager Terada Kaori was banned from this game, for arguing with the officials in Belle's previous match against JEF United.
INAC Kobe were extremely disappointing in their previous match, a no-score draw with Niigata, and it was expected that they would try to impress new manager Kumada Yoshinori, who recently left his post with the Myanmar women's side to take up this position. Nakajima Emi came back into the starting lineup after injury, and Michigami Ayaka made her first appearance this season after a significant time out, also due to injury.
Sawa Homare was one of the few players who showed any ambition against Niigata, and it was fitting that it was she who opened the scoring in the twelfth minute, left alone and heading in easily from Nakajima's ball into the box, with Belle appealing in vain for offside.
As the half wore on INAC continued to look the more dangerous side going forward, with Belle lacking in scoring opportunities, and with Miyama's deliveries from corner kicks uncharacteristically poor. However, she only needs one chance, and from distance she blasted home a free kick past Kaihori for the equaliser after twenty-seven minutes.
This goal gave Belle's attack more impetus, with Miyama's long cross-field balls stretching the INAC defence, which has looked poor all season. From another free kick in the thirty-fifth minute she shot just wide.
At the other end Kawasumi finally had a chance to shoot in the thirty-ninth minute but shot just wide of the right-hand post, and Fukumoto had to paw over a dangerous cross from Sawa moments later.
No changes were made at half-time. Belle had a chance from a corner kick and a few minutes later worked a good opening for Miyama but she shot over poorly. Belle continued to attack down the left through Nakano and down the right through Asano, with just half-chances the result, but they did look the more likely to take the lead.
INAC Kobe introduced Beverly Goebel-Yanez after sixty-two minutes, replacing Nakajima. Belle made a change of their own a minute later, the tall Fushiki coming on for Kuzuma, presumably to deal with Goebel-Yanez's height. Sawa had another chance from a header but it went just wide, though Belle will again have been concerned with how free she was left in the box.
The changes were coming rapidly, with INAC Kobe making the next, Michigami coming off to be replaced by Watanabe Ayaka. Takase had a shot knocked just wide as the game became more open, taking a pass from Kawasumi down the right, though two corners in succession came to nothing. Kawasumi herself had a shot from distance as she sought to catch Fukumoto off her line, though the Belle 'keeper was untroubled.
Fukumoto found herself in considerably more trouble after Kawasumi again released Takase for a rapsing shot which was just palmed over. Again the Belle defence was unable to stop Kawasumi's run or Takase's move into space.
With just under ten minutes remaining, a Miyama free kick into the ball was deflected with Nakano volleying just over from the loose ball. At this point INAC made their final change, a swap up front with Kyokawa coming off for Masuya. It was Takase who had the next good chance though, as she held off Takahashi to get off a shot with just went wide of the far post.
Arimachi had a rare chance to score at the other end, a burst of pace from Asano taking her clear of the INAC defence, though Arimachi knocked it wide of the near post.
The game ended 1-1, with the real winners being Urawa, who ended the weekend three points clear of Belle and five clear of Beleza. INAC Kobe have a chance to reorganise before the Cup starts, while Belle will do everything they can to beat Urawa next weekend in a game which could decide the title. INAC Kobe play Beleza.
INAC Kobe Leonessa:
Kaihori Ayumi, Kai Junko, Isokane Midori, Miyake Shiori, Minamiyama Chiaki, Nakajima Emi, Kyokawa Mai, Sawa Homare, Kawasumi Nahomi, Michigami Ayaka, Takase Megumi (capt)
Subs: Beverly Goebel-Yanez (Nakajima Emi, 62 mins), Watanabe Ayaka (Michigami Ayaka, 66 mins), Masuya Rika (Kyokawa Mai, 82 mins)
Unused subs: Takenaka Rei, Chelsea Stewart, Nakada Ayu, Ito Miki
Scorers: Sawa Homare (12 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 (Kuzuma Riyo, 64 mins)
Unused subs: Aoyagi Maririn, Taniguchi Kikumi, Kawano Saki, Nakada Maiko, Tanaka Mayu
Scorers: Miyama Aya (27 mins)