Big guns quietened, challengers surge

Modest form for competition front-runners is a recurring theme in this week’s women’s club review. Not a single play-off contender managed to be in the winner’s circle in USA, while there was a rare defeat for Swedish champions Tyreso as their rivals LdB Malmo roared back into contention. Perennial Danish queens Brondby were denied on the opening weekend of the season, while there is a new leader in England as Arsenal continue to do the chasing.

USA: And then there were four...
The maiden season of USA’s National Women’s Soccer League is set for a thrilling climax, with the top four play-off participants determined last Wednesday. Western New York Flash, Portland Thorns FC and Sky Blue FC are confirmed alongside front-runners FC Kansas City in the semi-final line-up. However, the teams that will boast home ground advantage are no closer to being finalised following the weekend’s penultimate round. Kansas saw their ten-game streak ended by a lone strike from Boston Breakers striker Sydney Leroux, with the victors having parted company from coach Lisa Cole a week earlier. Western New York and Portland remain level on points in second after they played out a scoreless draw, as Canada goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc excelled for the latter. Sky Blue though were unable to take advantage as they shared a six-goal thriller against Chicago Red Stars, despite a high-quality double from midfielder Monica Ocampo who famously scored with a long-range strike for Mexico at the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup™.
Top three: FC Kansas City (38 points), Western New York Flash, Portland Thorns, Sky Blue FC (all 35)

Sweden: Malmo halt Tyreso’s run
All eyes were on the top of the table clash as second-placed LdB Malmo gained a measure of revenge for a final-day title-deciding defeat last season with a dramatic 3-2 win at leaders Tyreso. Star Switzerland forward Ramona Bachmann was the goalscoring heroine for the visitors bagging a double, including the winner six minutes from full time. Malmo’s crucial win, combined with a 4-0 midweek victory over Sunnana, has lifted the seven-time champions equal on points with their rivals, though trailing on goal difference. Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC remain on the tail of the leading duo thanks to a 1-0 win at Mallbackens IF and remain four points off the pace just past the halfway mark of the campaign.
Top three: Tyreso (30 points), Malmo (30), Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC (26)

England: Reds go top as Gunners fire
Liverpool skipper Gemma Bonner hit a stunning late strike to clinch a dramatic victory in a seven-goal thriller over Bristol Academy, as the Reds leapfrogged their opponents into top spot on goal difference. Arsenal continued their fine recent form with a convincing 5-0 victory over Everton who were aided by a double from Danielle Carter. The reigning champions are in the unfamiliar position of third, but have two matches in hand on the majority of their rivals.
Top three: Liverpool, Bristol Academy (both 18 points), Arsenal (13)

Denmark: Brondby stumble in opener
There was a surprise to open Denmark’s new season as Brondby – champions in nine of the past 11 seasons – were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Skovbakken. And the reigning champions needed an injury-time equaliser from Emma Madsen just to claim a share of the spoils. Brondby’s key rivals Fortuna Hjorring have made a perfect start with two wins from as many matches, though they were made to work overtime before subduing OB Odense with Nadia Nadim’s lone strike the difference.
Top three: Fortuna Hjorring (6 points), Kolding, Skjold (both 3)