Please note that the Japanese names in these posts are written in Japanese order, i.e. Family Name followed by Given Name

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The 36th Empress' Cup - Final

Final Match, played Thursday 1st of January:

Match 35:
Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies  0 - 1  Nippon TV Beleza
(Attendance: 6,120)

Both Beleza, looking for their eleventh Cup victory, and Urawa, looking for their first, were unchanged from the their respective semi-finals and both will have been fully confident before kickoff that they had enough to win this year's first trophy today.

Beleza went on the attack from the off as expected with their young forward players lively and adventurous. Urawa closed down the Beleza midfielders well and prevented the opposition from building attacks. However, they couldn't prevent Beleza from gaining the advantage and in the ninth minute Ariyoshi had a shot blocked for a corner after a fine dribble from Shimizu Risa. The corner kick came to nothing but it was obvious early in the game that Urawa could not rely on Beleza being as poor in front of goal as JEF United had been in the semi-final.

Urawa picked up the pace a little thereafter, Goto creating some openings and in the fifteenth minute they won their first corner kick but tight defence from Beleza snuffed out any chance to shoot.

At the other end the breakthrough for Beleza was coming, and it eventually arrived from Tanaka Mina. She picked up the ball ahead of Kohata and turned but lost the ball. Momiki picked it up, had a shot and when Ikeda could only parry, Tanaka was there to finish off.

Beleza weren't happy to sit on a one-goal lead and continued to pepper Ikeda's goal with shots. With twenty-seven minutes gone and no shots yet produced, Urawa replaced Saito Akane with Seike Kiko, who moved up front alongside Goto.

Urawa still made little headway and it wasn't until the thirty-eighth minute that they had a decent strike on target, Shibata Hanae having a go from outside the area. Moments earlier Muramatsu Tomoko suffered a head injury but was able to continue after some treatment. Goto Michi wasn't so fortunate, as a seemingly innocuous challenge from Iwashimizu Azusa left her needing more significant treatment, though she was ultimately able to soldier on until half-time.

At half-time Urawa brought on Usui Rie for Wada Naoki as they made their second change, with Beleza yet to make their first. Certainly their manager Teratani Mayumi will not have had any concern with any particular player, and they came out playing the same slick passing footballl they had done in the opening forty-five minutes.

Kishikawa Natsuki shot wide from well outside the area and though it was a good attempt, the fact that it was such a speculative shot reflected how few chances Urawa had had to this point in the game.

There followed a lengthy period of Beleza possession, and they will have been frustrated by their inability to find a second goal. Urawa's chances were limited but as they showed against JEF United, they always had the potential to equalise. Seike Kiko had a chance or two to show her prowess when running at the Beleza defence but was unable to penetrate sufficiently to do damage.

It was Beleza who had the next clear opening, Sakaguchi Mizuho with a fine shot saved by Ikeda to give Beleza their third corner kick of the game, though like those previously, it came to nothing. Hasegawa made an exciting slalom run through the Urawa defence but her shot was weak and easily saved.

In the thirty-ninth minute Urawa made their last change, Dozono Ayano being replaced by Ishii Saki. Urawa kept looking to exert pressure on the Beleza goal, but the defence was very solid and dealt with each successive attack well.

On ninety minutes Hasegawa Yui intercepted a ball and had a tremendous chance to win the game for Beleza but shot wide badly. Kiryu came on just as time ran out, but she had little to do as the referee blew for full time seconds later and the delighted Beleza players celebrated their eleventh Cup victory, and first in five years.

Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies:
Ikeda Sakiko, Kohata Shiho, Dozono Ayano, Wada Naoko, Norimatsu Ruka, Saito Akane, Kishikawa Natsuki, Shibata Hanae, Kato Chika, Kira Chinatsu, Goto Michi (capt)
Subs: Seike Kiko (Saito Akane, 28 mins), Usui Rie (Wada Naoko, HT), Ishii Saki (Dozono Ayano, 83 mins)
Unused subs: Matsumoto Mamiko, Tomari Shiho

Nippon TV Beleza:
Yamashita Ayaka, Shimizu Risa, Muramatsu Tomoko, Iwashimizu Azusa (capt), Ariyoshi Saori, Hara Natsuko, Momiki Yuka, Hasegawa Yui, Sumida Rin, Sakaguchi Mizuho, Tanaka Mina
Subs: Kiryu Nanase (Tanaka Mina, 90+2 mins)
Unused subs: Soyama Kanako, Kinoshita Shiori, Kobayashi Yayoi, Yamaguchi Mami
Scorers: Tanaka Mina (19 mins)

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