*FIFA.com *reviews the latest women’s club football action, with a familiar look as the race for the UEFA Champions League semi-finals took centre-stage. We also take in the latest from Japan and France, plus an unexpected shock for Germany’s in-form side.
*UEFA Women’s Champions League: Familiar quartet line up *
Two intriguing semi-final ties loom in the UEFA Women’s Champions League following the completion of the quarter-finals last week. Lyon will take on Paris Saint-Germain, while 1.FFC Frankfurt will face Wolfsburg, meaning a Franco-German decider is assured for the sixth time in seven seasons. Of the quartet, Frankfurt came closest to elimination after the holders needed penalties for the second successive tie to maintain a hold on their crown. Sweden’s Rosengard fell just short despite winning 1-0 in Germany with a lone Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir strike. Things were far easier for compatriots Wolfsburg, who, despite missing several key personnel, were 3-0 winners at Brescia, doubling their first-leg margin.
Barcelona nearly earned a famous breakthrough win against PSG, only for the Parisians to be held until four minutes from the end of the tie, as Cristiane finally scored for a 1-0 aggregate win. Slavia Prague’s tie against Lyon was effectively over following a 9-1 first-leg defeat in France, but the Czechs will take some consolation from earning a scoreless draw at home against their all-star opponents. The semi-finals will be played over the final two weekends of April, with the final to be played in Italy’s Reggio-Emilia.
*Germany: Stunned Bayern stuck in the sand *
SC Sand, a modest club from a tiny south-west town, is the talk of German women’s football after winning through to their first German cup final, and ending the 15-month unbeaten streak of Bayern Munich in the process. A capacity crowd of just over 2,000 welcomed the Bavarian giants, and the home supporters must have feared the worst when the prolific Vivianne Miedema put the visitors in front. However, Serbia international Jovana Damnjanovic levelled on the hour mark, and Anne van Bonn sensationally scored a winner seven minutes from time. Holders Wolfsburg also won through to the 21 May final in Cologne, this after goals in either half from internationals Alexandra Popp and Babett Peter secured a 2-1 win over Freiburg.
Japan: Leonessa bound out of the blocks
Dethroned Nadeshiko League queens INAC Kobe Leonessa are the only side with a perfect record after the opening two rounds of the new season. The three-time champions won 2-0 at last season’s strugglers Iga FC Kunoichi. Yuka Momiki scored twice to help champions NTV Beleza outlast JEF United 3-1 for their maiden win of the fledgling campaign. But it was newly-promoted second division champions Nagano Parceiro who impressed most with a 5-2 win over Sperenza Osaka. Former youth international star Kumi Yokoyama scored her second and third goals of the season to prove that her stunning scoring record in the second tier was no fluke.
Top three: INAC Koke Leonessa (6 points), NTV Beleza, Albirex Niigata, Okayama Yunogo Belle (all 4)
*France: Lyon edge closer *
France’s big two Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain maintained their league title push after both enjoyed contrasting victories over the weekend. Lyon were pushed hard by their old rivals Juvisy but survived the road trip thanks to a Pauline Bremer goal midway through the second period. The win saw Lyon, who could be without starlet Claire Lavogez for the remainder of the season due to injury, confirm their spot in next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League. PSG, meanwhile, collected a comfortable 4-0 win at Saint-Etienne with Marie-Laure Delie netting twice.
Top three: Lyon (72), PSG (69), Montpellier (61)