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Tokyo Beleza and INAC Kobe to face in the final! - Empress's Cup JFA 44th Japan Women's Football Championship

23 January 2023

Tokyo Beleza and INAC Kobe to face in the final! - Empress's Cup JFA 44th Japan Women's Football Championship

The semi-finals of the Empress's Cup JFA 44th Japan Women's Football Championship took place at Sanga Stadium by KYOCERA on Sunday 22 January.

Semi-finals 1

Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza 3-1 (2-0, 1-1) Albirex Niigata Ladies

The match-up between Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza (WE/Tokyo), who boast a strong attack-minded line-up, and Albirex Niigata Ladies (WE/Niigata), who have not conceded a goal in this tournament, saw the score move early on. Tokyo Beleza scored the opener in the third minute when FUJINO Aoba fired a shot into the left hand corner of the goal. With momentum on their side, the Tokyo side continued to threaten the opposing goal with a shot and a cross delivered by UEKI Riko and MIYAGAWA Asato, respectively, but both attempts were saved by Niigata’s goalkeeper HIRAO Chika. Ueki extend the lead for Tokyo Beleza in the 12th minute by converting the pass of UTSUGI Rumi to score a goal in her third straight match in the Empress's Cup.

Albirex Niigata introduced KATO Shiori in the second half in an effort to make a comeback. With more options up front, Niigata was able to keep the ball for longer, which resulted in an own goal that was caused by a pass from YAMAYA Ruka in the 51st minute to reduce the deficit.

Needing a goal to equalise, Albirex Niigata made attempts to initiate their offence by collecting the ball to MICHIGAMI Ayaka, who had scored in back-to-back matches. They came close to scoring a goal in the 65th minute, when TAKIKAWA Yume delivered a cross that struck the cross bar. However, with Ueki scoring a header off of a cross sent by KITAMURA Nanami in the 66th minute, Tokyo Beleza won the match 3-1 to reach the final for the second time in three years.

Semi-finals 2

INAC Kobe Leonessa 2-1 (1-1, 1-0) Chifure AS Elfen Saitama

The match between INAC Kobe Leonessa (WE/Hyogo), who are currently leading the WE League, and Chifure AS Elfen Saitama (WE/Saitama), who are playing in their first semi-finals in three years, INAC Kobe took the initiative from the outset with their potent offence led by MORIYA Miyabi and AIKAWA Haruna.

INAC Kobe took the lead in the 32nd minute, when Aikawa responded to a long feed delivered by DOKO Mayo to lay-off a pass to TAKASE Megumi, who struck a well-executed lob-shot that found the back of the net.

Elfen Saitama equalised the score in the 39th minute when YOSHIDA Riko capitalised on a cleared ball of INAC Kobe goalkeeper YAMASHITA Ayaka.

The second half saw INAC Kobe control the ball possession and the decisive moment arrived in the 62nd minute, when NARUMIYA Yui responded to a deflection of a shot taken by ITO Miki to send the ball into the net.

Despite the final surge made by Elfen Saitama, INAC Kobe managed to hang onto their lead to reach the Empress's Cup final for the first time in four years.

The final between two WE League giants, Tokyo Beleza and INAC Kobe will kick-off at 15:00 on Saturday 28 January at Yodoko Sakura Stadium.

Coaches and Players' Comments

MF #14 Kitamura Nanami (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
After controlling the tempo in the first half, we gave up a goal right as we encouraged one another to "go get another goal" at halftime, but we were still able to maintain our composure and score our third goal. (Reflecting on their third goal) When I received the ball, I knew (Ueki) Riko was in the box, so I am glad I was able to assist that goal. I'm eager to compete in my first Empress' Cup final, but I also want to maintain my composure and avoid getting too overwhelmed by the occasion.

MURAMATSU Daisuke, Coach (Albirex Niigata Ladies)
Although we entered the match in great shape, we conceded back-to-back goals from our slow transitions and inability to manage the risks. It is regretful that we gave op the third goal after we managed to score one back. We had to be more patient in those situations. Our hats are off to our opponents today, but we should be proud of the fact that we reached the semi-finals and make the most of the experience to prepare ahead of the second half of the WE League.

FW #11 TAKASE Megumi (INAC Kobe Leonessa)
We repeatedly tried to penetrate the space behind the opponent’s defence line to create chances, but we wish we could have taken more shots in the final third. It was an intense match, but (AIKAWA)Haruna laid off a great ball for me and I am glad that I was able to convert that opportunity. Tokyo Beleza are really good at possessing the ball, so we must play patiently in the final and try to take advantage of our speed to convert our opportunities.

MF #24 YOSHIDA Riko (Chifure AS Elfen Saitama)
It wasn’t a match we couldn’t win, but our opponents had the upper hand today. We must make the most of this experience to improve ourselves ahead of the second half of the season. (Reflecting on the goal scene) I was anticipating to penetrate the space between the opponent’s centre-backs and wingbacks, and NISHIKAWA (Asuka) delivered a great pass for me. We are disappointed not to make history for our club, but we will learn from this experience to do better in the second half of the season.

Empress's Cup JFA 44th Japan Women's Football Championship

Tournament Duration: Sat. 26 November 2022 - Sat. 28 January 2023
【1st Round】Sat. 26, Sun. 27 November
【2nd Round】Sat. 3, Sun. 4 December
【3rd Round】Sat. 10, Sun. 11 December
【4th Round】Sat. 17, Sun. 18 December
【Quarterfinals】Sun. 15 January 2023
【Semi-Finals】Sun. 22 January 2023

【Final】Sun. 28 January 2023

Tournament Information

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