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Nippon TV and Kobe advances to Final of Empress's Cup JFA 40th Japan Women's Football Championship

30 December 2018

Nippon TV and Kobe advances to Final of Empress's Cup JFA 40th Japan Women's Football Championship

The semi-final matches of the Empress's Cup JFA 40th Japan Women's Football Championship took place at Panasonic Stadium Suita, Osaka, on Saturday 29 December.

With the advancement into the final at stake, Nippon TV Beleza (Nadeshiko Div.1/Tokyo) and Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies (Nadeshiko Div.1/Saitama) squared off, while JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies (Nadeshiko Div.1/Chiba) and INAC Kobe Leonessa (Nadeshiko Div.1/Hyogo) featured the other fixture of the semi-final.

Pick-up Match 1

Nippon TV Beleza 1-0 (1-0, 0-0) Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies

The first match saw the defending champions, Nippon TV face the Urawa side who sought for their first Empress's Cup title. While Nippon TV anticipated for their opportunities by moving the ball around with great pace, they struggled to create a clear chance as Coach NAGATA Masato later reflected, “In the first 20 minutes of the match, we couldn’t break through the block created by our opponents and seemed to rush our plays too much.” Conversely, Nippon TV almost conceded the opening goal in the 24th minute when they turned over the ball to SUGASAWA Yuika in their own penalty area, but the shot taken by the Urawa forward went off the target.

Despite giving up a close opportunity to their opponent, Nippon TV managed to reorganise their plays and capture the opening goal. The long-awaited moment came in the 43rd minute, when HASEGAWA Yui exchanged passes to penetrate the right side of the penalty area before sending a cross towards the centre, as she later reflected, “In a tight match like this, creating opportunities from crosses can be vital, so I delivered the cross.” KOBAYASHI Rikako collected the ball on the other side, making the effort to control the ball and release the final pass to TANAKA Mina, who struck the ball into the net.

The second half saw Nippon TV controlling the match with great composure, giving no room for Urawa to attack. However, Urawa made their final efforts in the closing minutes of the match. In the 82nd minute, KURISHIMA Akari intercepted the ball before passing the ball to allow TAKAHASHI Hana to take a shot at goal, but her attempt came short from finding the back of the net. Nippon TV would maintain their intensity to shutout the Urawa offence and putting themselves in position to achieve their first tipple crown in seven years.

Pick-up Match 2

JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies 0-1 (0-0, 0-0, ex: 0-0, 0-1) INAC Kobe Leonessa

The second semi-final match featured JEF and Kobe, where both sides showcased great intensity from the beginning of the match. Kobe attempted to create opportunities by collecting the ball to NAKAJIMA Emi through their vertical passes from the defence line but struggled to construct an effective attack. On the other side, JEF sought for their opportunities through the hotline of KAMOGAWA Miho and OZAWA Hiro, but also failed to create a clear chance, as the match entered halftime scoreless.

In the second half, Kobe created chances by effectively utilising their long balls and the width of the field, allowing KYOKAWA Mai to make runs into the open space, however, led by CHINO Shoko, the JEF defence line did well to keep the score intact. The match entered extra time, but Kobe did not seem to be affected, as Coach SUZUKI Shun mentioned, “When we face JEF, it’s almost guaranteed that it will be a close match, so we were anticipating for extra time or even penalty shootouts.”

While both sides displayed an equally matched bout throughout extra time, the long-awaited moment came on the 115th minute. The deciding goal came when Kobe’s MASUYA Rika delivered the ball to IWABUCHI Mana who then sent a through ball to Kyokawa. As she later spoke, “I was anticipating to make runs behind the defenders for the entire match,” Kyokawa broke through the space and calmly converted the opportunity to give her side the lead. After holding on to their one-goal lead for the remaining minutes of the match, Kobe returned to the Empress's Cup final for their second time in three years.

Coach and Players' Comments

TANAKA Mina (Nippon TV Beleza)
Our overall performance was not so bad today, as we managed to create numbers of opportunities upfront. It would have been better if we could have scored more goals. (With the final taking place on a holiday) It will be held on one of the best days for people to watch our match. It may give people the opportunity to watch women’s football, even if they don’t normally watch us play. We hope to give our very best performance so that those people will want to watch us again.

MASAKI Hirofumi, Coach (Urawa Red Diamonds Ladies)
It is very disappointing that we couldn’t show our supporters a winning match, despite them coming all the way from Saitama to watch our match during the year end, but we are very grateful for their enthusiastic support. Following the third round, we had to deal with many injuries and it was a very difficult tournament, but our players prepared well to fulfil their responsibilities. Although it might have been easier for us to go out and play defensively, I believed in our players power and told them to play aggressively from the frontline. I am very proud of how our players played for the entire 90 minutes.

FUJII Nana, Coach (JEF United Ichihara Chiba Ladies)
Making a deep run into the semi-finals should give our players great confidence moving forward. Although it was disappointing that we couldn’t make it all the way, we were able to showcase a good performance. We saw that our opponents had the upper hand in terms of game management and decision makings. We felt the need to improve our decision makings and the skills to sustain ball possession. We have been striving for a football style to “Run and Fight,” but in order for us to reach a higher-level next year, we must add the ability to use our head so that we can move the ball and players more effectively.

KYOKAWA Mai (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
Although we struggled to score a goal, our team was very focused, and it didn’t feel like we were going to concede a goal. The goal came as a result of our persistent efforts made in defence, and I am very happy that I was able to contribute to our team’s victory. We haven’t been able to win against Beleza this year, so we are all very eager to win against them. As long as we can showcase what we have been working on all year, we should be able to win the match, so we just have to execute our game plan.

Empress’s Cup JFA 40th Japan Women’s Football Championship

Tournament Dates:Sat. 3 November 2018 - Tue. 1 January 2019
【1st Round】Sat. 3 & Sun. 4 November 2018
【2nd Round】Sat. 24 & Sun. 25 November 2018
【3rd Round】Sat. 1 & Sun. 2 December 2018
【Quarterfinals】Sat. 22 December 2018
【Semi-Finals】Sat. 29 December 2018
【Final】Tue. 1 January 2019

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