By Tom Bennett in Tokyo
Arsenal Ladies brought their 11-day tour of Japan to a fitting conclusion on Sunday with a 3-1 win over the Nadeshiko league runners-up, NTV Beleza.
Ellen White put the Gunners ahead after just three minutes and, while her goal was matched soon after, further first-half strikes from Jordan Nobbs and Jennifer Beattie secured Arsenal their second win of the trip.
The Ladies’ hosts were 12 times Nadeshiko league champions and had two World Cup winners in their ranks but Arsenal – having acclimatised to football in this part of the world after three games in five days – were determined to end the tour on a high.
Laura Harvey’s side enjoyed a perfect start, with Ellen White – scorer of a superb long-range lob against Japan in this summer’s Word Cup – inflicting more damage in the Tama City Athletic Stadium. Collecting the ball on the right edge of the box, she swivelled and shot low across goal and into the far corner of the net to put Arsenal one up almost immediately.
Beleza soon levelled things when a low, zipping cross struck Ciara Grant on the shin and looped past Emma Byrne’s outstretched hand after six minutes.
And the home side could have gone ahead moments later when Iwabuchi dinked over Byrne. Grant made amends for her earlier bad luck though, chasing back to hook the ball off the line.
Thereafter Arsenal dominated the first half and were two up by the break.
Nobbs unleashed a fierce shot from range, which struck the post on its way in, on 25 minutes. And Beattie made it three just before half time. Clever work from Kim Little down the left allowed her to square the ball for Beattie, who steadied herself before firing in from six yards. It was the Scotland international’s fourth goal in three matches in Japan.
Harvey’s team sought to limit the options of a technically-astute Beleza side in the second half and another disciplined and industrious defensive display ensured they were able to do just that, with the team preserving its two-goal advantage to the end.
The result was again in some ways secondary to the occasion though. Two thousands supporters – many of them survivors of March’s earthquake - came down to cheer the teams on as "Only one team in London” chorused around the ground an 11-hour flight and 12 time zones from home.
* The Ladies conducted a football session with 200 children from the disaster-affected area of Tohoku after the match. Players joined in small-sided games, signed shirts and posed for pictures with the youngsters at Tama City Athletic Stadium.
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