It was an intriguing weekend in the world of women’s club football, and with the status quo remaining in France and Germany, FIFA.com focuses on Japan and Sweden as the league seasons move towards their respective finales. INAC Kobe Leonessa claimed their third straight title with matches to spare, while Swedish champions Malmo, eyeing a similar feat, were held to set up a winner-takes-all clash with Marta’s Tyreso. Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe it is early season in Australia and also New Zealand, where the new campaign commenced over the weekend.
*Japan: Leonessa crowned queens again *INAC Kobe Leonessa claimed their third successive Nadeshiko League crown in emphatic fashion. Their 4-1 win at third-placed Okayama Belle Yunogo saw Leonessa open up a 12-point margin to cruise to the title with two matches to spare. Shinobu Ohno scored twice as the star-studded Leonessa, featuring FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year nominees Miho Fukumoto and Homare Sawa, continued their undefeated league campaign. Nearest challengers NTV Beleza, who denied Leonessa last month by winning the League Cup, continued their recent indifferent form with a 3-1 defeat at Urawa Red Diamonds, and have now won just two of their last five outings. Meanwhile, Vegalta Sendai, featuring national team star and local heroine Aya Sameshima, have won promotion to the top flight after claiming the second-tier Challenge League crown. It could yet be a remarkable year for the region heavily affected by last year’s earthquake and tsunami, with the men’s side currently joint top of the J.League.
*Top three: INAC Leonessa (46 points), NTV Beleza (34), Okayama Yunogo Belle (29) *
*Sweden: Malmo stumble sets up dramatic finale *The Swedish Damallsvenskan will see the top two meet in the final round with the championship on the line, after champions Ldb Malmo spurned an opportunity to retain their crown in the penultimate round. Hunting a third successive crown, Malmo were held 1-1 at Umea relying on an equaliser from Elin Rubensson with five minutes remaining, having lost prolific Swiss striker Ramona Bachmann to a red card earlier in the second half. Tyreso FF took maximum advantage cruising past Jitex 3-0 with Veronica Boquete completing a remarkable week, after helping Spain qualify for UEFA Women’s EURO in Sweden, by scoring goals in either half. Tyreso, having lost the chance for silverware recently with a Swedish Cup final defeat against Kopparberg/Gothenburg, must win at Malmo on Saturday to claim the crown on goal difference.
*Top three: Malmo (55 points) Tyreso (52), Linkopings (36) *
*Australia: Elite trio find form *After an indifferent opening to the season, the W-League’s big three of Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar and Canberra United – who collectively have won all four editions of the competition – returned to winning ways. Champions Canberra were the most impressive defeating Newcastle Jets 5-0 away from home, with all the goals coming in the latter stages of the match, including four in the final ten minutes. Brisbane had a far harder time seeing off Melbourne Victory with a narrow 1-0 win. It was the same scoreline as Sydney FC saw off new club Western Sydney Wanderers in the league’s maiden city derby, with New Zealand international Emma Kete scoring the winner. However, it is Perth Glory who are top with the only perfect record after two rounds. Boosted by the return of Australia stars Kate Gill and Collette McCallum, and coached by long-serving men’s national league player Jamie Harnwell, the Glory are looking set to live up to their name after several disappointing seasons.
Top three: Perth Glory (6 points), Canberra United, Sydney FC, Brisbane Roar (all 4)
*New Zealand: Champs continue momentum *The new season commenced with defending champions Northern Football recording a solid start to the new campaign with a 3-1 win over Waikato-BOP in a replay of last season’s final. In the other Northern Conference match, a pair of goals at either end of the match saw Auckland Football defeated NZF U-17. The latter, who feature nine players that went to the recent FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, are coached by Aaron McFarland, with the New Zealand U-20 coach having a mandate to develop individual players. Both Southern Conference matches ended in draws with, notably, Emma Boyack scoring twice as Central Football drew 3-3 with Football South.