Nippon TV wins close battle to earn back-to-back Title and Seasonal Triple Crown at Empress's Cup JFA 40th Japan Women's Football Championship
02 January 2019
Nippon TV Beleza 4-2 (0-1, 2-1, ex: 2-0, 0-0) INAC Kobe Leonessa
On Tuesday 1 January, the Empress's Cup JFA 40th Japan Women's Football Championship Final took place at Panasonic Stadium Suita, Osaka.
The final fixture of the tournament featured the defending champions Nippon TV Beleza (Nadeshiko Div.1/Tokyo) and the winner of the tournament from two years ago, INAC Kobe Leonessa (Nadeshiko Div.1/Hyogo), as the highly anticipated match kicked off with a crowd of 6,853.
With Nippon TV already crowned as champions of the Plenus Nadeshiko League Div.1 and Plenus Nadeshiko League Cup Div.1 this season, the team sought to complete the triple crown. In the final, they rotated two players from their semi-final’s starting line-up, selecting to start UEKI Riko in the deciding match. Kobe on the other side, who has been without a title this season, started the same line-up from the semi-final match.
The match saw Kobe applying aggressive pressure from their front line to contain the build-ups of the Nippon TV. It was the Kobe side who opened the scoring in this match, as MASUYA Rika captured the opening goal in the 42nd minute, assisted by IWABUCHI Mana.
Despite allowing the opening goal for the first time in this tournament, Nippon TV picked up their pace in the second half. The equaliser came in the 54th minute, when MOMIKI Yuka delivered the ball to Ueki, who struck a shot after breaking through the left flank. The shot taken by Ueki deflected off a Kobe defender and shook the net.
After scoring the equaliser, Nippon TV gained more momentum in their attacks. In the 71st minute, MIYAGAWA Asato made an overlapping run to send the ball to TANAKA Mina, who was blocked by the opposing defender, but Momiki was there to convert the loose ball to give Nippon TV the 2-1 lead.
Kobe would rally back with their fast breaks, as KYOKAWA Mai responded to the pass delivered by NAKADA Ayu to level the match once again, just six minutes after they gave up the lead. With Kyokawa scoring in three consecutive matches, the match entered overtime with a score of 2-2.
It was Nippon TV who took the initiative in overtime, as they struck a total of 10 shots. The deciding goal came for Nippon TV in the 94th minute, when Momiki captured her second goal of the match, assisted by Tanaka.
Tanaka would seel off the match with a goal scored in the 104th minute, when she chased down a long feed delivered by SHIMIZU Risa, registering her seventh goal of the tournament, which was the most goals scored in the competition.
Kobe made their final efforts to close down the gap, but the score remained the same at 4-2, as Nippon TV captured their 13th Empress's Cup title in back-to-back fashion.
To celebrate the 40th tournament, free admission was offered for the final match. Various events were also held at the match venue, as exhibition matches and live performances entertained the spectators.
Coaches and Players' Comments
NAGATA Masato, Coach (Nippon TV Beleza)
Prior to this match, we have scouted the Kobe team who consists with many great players and entered the match with the expectation for a very tough match. Our game plan was to initiate the build ups from the goalkeeper position and create numerical advantages with our defenders pressing up. We were able to exploit the gap between the players and hold a wide option to threaten the opposing goal even against a strong Kobe side, so that tells me that our team has improved over the years.
IWASHIMIZU Azusa (Nippon TV Beleza)
With so many people watching our match, I feel like we were able to showcase an entertaining match. In terms of defence, we allowed our opponents to take the initiative of the match in the first half and conceded the opening goal. However, we kept a positive mindset to enter the second half and earned back-to-back title along with the triple crown. We have worked hard throughout the year to earn this result, and during the off season we will continue to lookback on the year to improve ourselves ahead of the next season.
SUZUKI Shun, Coach (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
This was our opportunity to showcase what we have been working on all year and challenge Nippon TV. We were able to express the joy of playing football from the very first day of the year and showcase an entertaining match, but we weren’t able to finish the match in 90 minutes. This season, we worked on our transitions from defence to offence, which was on display in our second goal of the match. We ended up as the runners-up in all competition this season, so we will all strive to improve ourselves to win titles next season.
IWABUCHI Mana (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
We managed to take control of the match after we scored the opening goal, but Nippon TV showed great confidence. They were a very strong team. Coach Suzuki told us during halftime, “1-0 lead is not a lead when facing Nippon TV,” and the players felt the same way, but it turned out that was truly the case. We had our chances to score more goals, so it would have been better if we converted those opportunities. We ended up finishing in second place in many competitions this season, so we must strive to improve ourselves to achieve higher results.
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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