Women’s club football headlines over the weekend were dominated by high-profile leagues of USA and Sweden beginning their new campaigns. Germany witnessed the two cup finalists determined, while there were big wins for the nation’s UEFA Women’s Champions League hopefuls. Finally to Japan where local powerhouse INAC Kobe Leonessa belatedly kick-started their season following a couple of shock defeats.
USA: Holders dash hopes of new girls Houston
Hopes were high for National Women’s Soccer League debutants Houston Dash but a healthy crowd of over 8,000 went home unhappy as reigning champions Portland Thorns edged a 1-0 win. Midfielder Allie Long scored the game’s decisive goal in the first half while FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Nadine Angerer maintained a cleansheet on her NWSL debut as the highly-regarded Thorns held on for all three points. Elsewhere a couple of imports claimed the goalscoring honours. Scotland’s Kim Little bagged a double as Seattle Reign eased past Boston Breakers with a 2-0 scoreline. Spain’s Vicky Losada also scored twice as Western New York Flash, who finished last season at the top of the league ladder, secured a 3-1 victory over Washington Spirit.
Sweden: Contrasting results for big-name duo
There were vastly contrasting results for the past two league champions in Sweden as the new season kicked-off. 2012 queens Tyreso suffered a body blow ahead of the weekend’s UEFA Women’s Champions League semi-final against Birmingham City with a surprise 2-0 loss at Kristianstads. A goal in each half proved the undoing of the Stockholm-based side who were missing Marta, Caroline Seger and Veronica Boquete. Champions FC Rosengard, formerly known as Malmo, suffered no such opening-day nerves easing to a 4-0 win at newly promoted AIK. However, it is Kopparbergs/Goteborg who hold top down top spot on goal difference thanks to an impressive 5-0 win over Vittsjo, with prolific Netherlands striker Manon Melis scoring a hat-trick on her club debut.
Germany: Cup focus
1.FFC Frankfurt overcame second division leaders SC Sand 2-0 to reach next month’s German Cup decider in Cologne, where they will face first-time finalists Essen, who saw off Freiburg 1-0 in extra time with a winner from substitute Sarah Freutel. Meanwhile in the league, Turbine Potsdam and Wolfsburg both enjoyed high-scoring victories as they prepare to meet in a potentially epic continental match-up on Saturday. Potsdam won 3-0 over Hoffenheim, while European champions Wolfsburg eased past Duisburg 6-0 with six different names on the scoresheet. Potsdam's seventh straight win since the winter break leaves them a point clear of Frankfurt and four ahead of Wolfsburg.
Top three: Turbine Potsdam (38 points), Frankfurt (37), Wolfsburg (34)
Japan: Urawa maintain form, Leonessa rebound
Urawa Red Diamonds continued their perfect start to the Nadeshiko League season with a third win from as many starts. The Saitama club cruised to a 5-0 win over Elfen Sayama with former Lyon striker Ami Otaki netting twice. Second-placed NTV Beleza are the only other unbeaten side after their 2-0 home victory against Vegalta Sendai. All-conquering INAC Kobe Leonessa, winners of the past three league crowns, finally got off the mark with a 2-0 win over Albirex Niigata.
Top three: Urawa Red Diamonds (9), NTV Beleza (7), JEF United, Okayama Belle Yunogo, Vegalta Sendai (all 6)
photo Cheltenham jockey club
photo Cheltenham Racecourse