Another weekend of WE.League and another weekend of entertainment. It was fantastic to see also that league attendances were roughly the same as those on the opening day fixtures, with over 14,000 fans in the stadiums. This in a time where Japan is still being affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and fan attendance being capped to 5000 capacity.
Urawa Reds Ladies continue their fine form and look to replicate the success of their 2020 Nadeshiko Season, with yet another win and currently sit top of the table. Whereas historic champions Tokyo Beleza will be wondering why they haven't quite hit their peak yet. Mynavi Sendai get their first win of the season, Regina suffer defeat and JEF United play their first campaign of the season.
Matchweek 2 Fixtures
AC Nagano Parceiro Ladies 0 v 0 Tokyo Beleza - Attendance 1957
After their loss to Urawa Ladies last week, Tokyo would have looked to bounce back given their status of being Japan's most successful team. However, Nagano weren't about rest of their laurels after their victory last weekend. The game kicked off with Beleza having most of possession and looking to open the scoring. They came close through Riko Ueki who struck the ball first time from Jun Endo's cutback. However, Parceiro goalkeeper Yuria Ito managed to get a hand to the ball to keep it out. Nagano did have their own chance before the end of the first half when Chise Takizawa pounced on a defensive error and laid the ball off for Sayaka Mitani to finish, but Beleza's Momoko Tanaka was quick off her line and quickly blocked the shot with her body. The second half however, Beleza came out determined. They dominated the game in terms of possession, passing and attacking chances. Nagano put in an incredible defensive performance, remaining strong to Tokyo's advances. Goalkeeper Yuria Ito and the rest of her defenders, threw themselves into every shot in an attempt to block the ball and put their bodies on the line. But it was Nagano who almost saw reward for their efforts, when towards the end of the game, Rio Takizawa took on a shot from outside the box which had Tanaka beaten. Unfortunately for Parceiro, it also beat the goal by a few inches.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima Regina 0 v 2 Mynavi Sendai Ladies - Attendance 2153
Sanfrecce started their debut football campaign well last weekend with a 3-0 win, but they were soon reminded that this league will be anything but easy. The game started off fairly even, with both sides having opportunities to score, but failed to be clinical when it mattered. However it was in the 44th minute, just before half time when Sendai won a corner. Fuka Nagano went to take it and opted for the short corner to Rin Sumida, who was unmarked. Sumida took the ball towards goal before striking it outside of the box at a difficult angle, but managed to beat to Runa Konomi, who was grasping at thin air in attempt to keep the ball out. It wasn't long into the second half when Sendai made it 2-0. After intercepting a Regina clearance, Sendai played some lovely tiki-taka on the left wing, before Nana Ichise crossed the ball into the box and Akari Shiraki hit it first time into the net. Regina goalkeeper Runa Konomi would have felt frustrated, when she did get a hand to it, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to keep it out of the net. Sanfrecce did attempt to get back into the game and had plenty of chances, but they weren't able to covert their opportunities in front of goal. Mami Ueno came close in the dying moments of the game, when she struck the ball from just inside the box and had Mamiko Matsumoto beaten. However, her shot pinged up and off the crossbar.
Omiya Ardija Ladies 1 v 1 Albirex Niigata Ladies - Attendance 3419
Niigata got things off to a quick start at the NACK5 stadium, when in the 7th minute Hikaru Kitagawa received the ball on the left wing and sent in a wonderful cross right into the centre of the box. Whilst Omiya goalkeeper Hannah Stambaugh should have done better to come out from her goal and claim the ball, you can take nothing away from the first time finish from Ayaka Michigami who cooly slotted it through Stambaugh's legs. The pendulum continued to swing in Albirex's favour throughout the remainder of the first half, with the White Swans having plenty of opportunities to make it 2-0. Just before the half time whistle, Niigata's Hikaru Kitagawa struck an audacious shot from 30 yards out which seemed destined for the top of the net. However, Stamaugh atoned for her earlier mistake and got a strong hand to it to tip it over the bar and out for a corner. But despite Albirex's dominance in the first half, it was Omiya who came out fighting. They had attempts on goal, shortly after the restart, but it was in the 50th minute that they saw reward for their perseverance. Winning a freekick just outside the box, Miyuki Takahashi struck the ball under the jumping wall and was provided with a fortuitous (or unlucky if you're Albirex) deflection off the Niigata defence to see her shot fumble into the net and beat the wrong footed Chika Hirao. The game hit a stalemate after this, with neither side creating many opportunities or shots on goal.
JEF United Ladies 1 v 1 Chifure AS Elfen Saitama - Attendance 3463
This was JEF's first game of the season after being on their allocated WE Action Day last weekend (which involves community work), whereas Saitama were looking to improve on their draw last weekend with Sendai. It was Saitama who got things underway in the 22nd minute when they won a freekick on the left hand side of the pitch. Kozue Setoguchi sent the ball forward aiming for the backpost and found Yuki Seno who headed it superbly into the bottom left corner and past the stretching Shiori Shimizu. However their 1-0 lead would not last long, when in the 34th minute JEF found the equaliser. JEF won the ball back on the half way line and began their quick counter, with Arisa Minamino playing in a wonderful through ball to Miho Kamogawa towards the edge of the box. Kamogawa showed great intelligence and reading of the game, when she opted to hold the ball up to allow teammates to run into the box as opposed to taking the shot from a difficult angle. When the opportunity presented itself, she sent in a backpost cross for Natsuki Kishikawato to head into the bottom right corner. Whilst you could argue that Elfen keeper Mayu Funada could have done better, JEF were certainly not complaining. Although Funada certainly made up for her earlier indecision, when she pulled off a tremendous save to keep out Haruka Osawa's shot from point blank range. Unlike the first half, the second half provided little entertainment in the form of attacking plays and attempts on goal, although JEF United were undoubtedly the better side and will feel aggrieved to not come away with three points at home.
Urawa Reds Ladies 2 v 0 Stella Kanagawa - Attendance 3256
Urawa continued their fine form, with their second consecutive win which sees them at the top of the table currently. The Reds opened the scoring in the 10th minute when from Hikaru Naomoto corner, Hana Takahashi towered above the Kanagawa defence and fired a bullet header into the bottom right corner, leaving the Stella goalkeeper Fubuki Kuno no chance of saving. Kanagawa didn't give in and nearly scored an equaliser right on the half time whistle, when Reina Wakisaka struck the crossbar, with Reds keeper Sakiko Ikeda seemingly getting the tiniest of fingertips to it. Urawa continued to mount the pressure into the second half, but found themselves constantly denied by the heroics and incredible saves of Fubuki Kuno. However, there was not much the Kanagawa goalkeeper could do, when in the 82nd minute of the game, she found herself up against two Reds attackers. Yuika Sugasawa carried the ball into the box and had Yuzuho Shiokoshi free to her left, but Sugasawa calmly cut the ball back on her left foot and placed it into the bottom left corner to finish the game 2-0
Matchweek 3 Fixtures
How to watch
If you live in Japan, the games can be watched on DAZN or on DAZN Japan's YouTube channel. The DAZN Japan's YouTube Channel will occasionally show games to international audiences live and for free most weekends.
That being said, if you are wanting to follow the league and can't catch the games, the WE League YouTube channel is uploading highlights of each game which are around 2-3 minutes long.
You can also follow the following accounts, that will help you keep in the know: