Tuesday 31 May 2016, 06:47

Differing fortunes for frontrunners

FIFA.com reviews a big weekend of women’s club football, where mixed fortunes for competition leaders proved a theme. We take in the latest from the domestic leagues of USA and Japan, as the two countries prepare to meet at senior international level for the first time since the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final™. The league season in Spain is set for yet another fascinating denouement, while there were some intriguing results for the top teams in both Sweden and Switzerland.

USA: Goal drought amid wild weather Chicago Red Stars took outright control of top spot in the NWSL, despite being held 1-1 at home by midtable Sky Blue FC. The Red Stars were able to move ahead of Washington Spirit, whose match at Houston Dash fell foul of dangerous weather conditions in Texas. There were few goals to be found on a weekend where USA national team players were absent in national team camp. The scoring drought was most notable in Portland, where there was a scoreless draw for another bumper 18,114 crowd at the northwest derby against Seattle Reign. New club Orlando Pride suffered a surprise 2-0 defeat at FC Kansas City, a result which allowed the victors to move off the bottom. Second-half goals saw the champions finally register their first win in the seventh round. The biggest winners over the weekend were Western New York Flash who continued their recent good form, as Lynn Williams scored a 60-second double in a 4-0 win over Boston Breakers. Top three: Chicago Red Stars (14 points), Washington Spirit, Portland Thorns (both 13)

Japan: Champs maintain momentum Champions NTV Beleza underlined their strength with a 5-0 win at Okayama Yunogo Belle to retain their four-point lead after 11 rounds. And while all the national team players were available ahead of flying out for their two-match series against USA, it was a former youth international star who stole the headlines. Mina Tanaka proved too much to handle to handle for Yunogo Belle, as the attacking dynamo nabbed a hat-trick inside the opening hour. It wasn’t, however, such a pleasant weekend for Beleza’s rivals INAC Kobe Leonessa, with the three-time champs losing 2-1 against Albirex Niigata. That result allowed newly-promoted Nagano Parceiro - 1-0 victors at Urawa Red Diamonds - to open up a three-point gap in second. Top three: NTV Beleza (26), Nagano Parceiro (22), INAC Kobe Leonessa, Vegalta Sendai (both 19)

Spain: Three becomes two Athletic Bilbao and Barcelona secured a spot in next season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League following a decisive weekend in Spain. Much of the focus was on Madrid on Saturday where third-placed Atletico hosted leaders Athletic Bilbao. It was the latter who secured all three points thanks to a second-half winner from Irene Paredes, with the result ending Atletico’s title hopes. There was no such tension for Barcelona who eased to a 5-0 win at Oiartzun to maintain the heat on the leaders with two rounds remaining. Top three: Athletic Bilbao (75), Barcelona (74), Atletico Madrid (63)

Elsewhere A top-of-the-table-clash headlined the weekend in Sweden, but although Marta put the all-star Rosengard ahead, Linkoping drew level through Denmark attacker Pernille Harder for a 1-1 scoreline. While the pair retain their share of top spot, the result allowed last season’s surprise-packets Eskilstuna to draw closer in third place with a confident 4-1 win at Orebro. Meanwhile, there was a rare defeat for Switzerland powerhouse FC Zurich, as the newly-crowned champions fell 2-1 after Luzern staged a comeback, capped by a second-half Nicole Remund winner.