Women’s football continues to enjoy a boom in the wake of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ with club football enjoying the flow-on effects. *FIFA.com *reviews all the latest action in USA, Japan and England where increased spectator numbers and tense action were a recurring theme.
*USA: Big names, big attendances *
The en-masse return of USA’s Women’s World Cup winners highlighted the latest round in the NWSL with the headline names helping produce some record attendances. Incredibly three of the four matches saw the house-full sign posted as Washington Spirit, Chicago Red Stars and Kansas City all hosted capacity crowds. Perhaps most attention was centred on the latter contest where newly crowned adidas Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd took the field for the first time since her hat-trick helped the Stars and Stripes see off Japan in the Canada 2015 finale. The American midfielder seems to have lost little of her rare form, duly guiding in the game’s opening goal with a free-kick on the stroke of half-time. However the match, which featured seven USA World Cup winners, ended in parity with the Dash equalising through a Toni Pressley own goal soon after the break to leave Kansas short of the three points needed to move third.
Washington Spirit were the only side among the leading pack to collect all three points thanks to an impressive 3-0 triumph over heavyweights Seattle Reign. Amanda Da Costa, Christine Nairn and NWSL leading scorer Crystal Dunn – who was considered by many to be a surprise omission from USA’s Canada 2015 squad – were all on the scoresheet. Meanwhile, leaders Chicago were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw at home against Boston Breakers despite four of their World Cup stars taking the field, including USA pair Lori Chalupny and Shannon Boxx.
*Top three: Chicago Red Stars (22 points), Seattle Reign (21), Washington Spirit (20) *
*Japan: Fans gather for tight title race *There were similarly strong crowds in Japan where the Nadeshiko League has received a boost following the national team’s run to the Women’s World Cup Final. Most notably over 5,000 turned up at the home of Iga FC Kunoichi – one of the league’s smallest clubs - for the visit of the star-studded INAC Kobe Leonessa. A goal in each half ensured the visitors maintained their one-point margin at the summit. Long-term rivals NTV Beleza remain on Leonessa’s tale after a tough 2-1 home win over Yunogo Belle. Urawa Red Diamonds’ slide continued with the champions suffering a sixth defeat in 14 outings as Albirex Niigata came away from Saitama with a 1-0 win.
*Top three: INAC Kobe Leonessa (31), NTV Beleza (30), Vegalta Sendai (27) *
*England: Dose of the blues for Chelsea *The title race was blown wide open in England after leaders Chelsea crashed to a shock defeat while their nearest four challengers were all in the winner’s circle. Beth Mead was the star as the young striker’s hat-trick helped Sunderland rout Chelsea 4-0 in the north-east. Arsenal edged a 1-0 win at Birmingham, while fourth-placed Notts County saw off reigning champions Liverpool 2-1 thanks to a Jess Clark brace. Manchester City remain six points off the pace with their 3-0 win over Bristol Academy built around two goals from England star Toni Duggan.
*Top three Chelsea (17), Arsenal, Sunderland (both 15) *