The onset of autumn in Europe marked the opening to several seasons in Europe, notably in Germany where early indications suggest the favourites will not have everything their own way. There were also fresh campaigns underway in Spain and the Netherlands, while cup action took centre stage in England. Meanwhile, there was silverware on offer in Japan and the prospect of glory in USA.
Shocks marked the opening day to the new season in Germany. Most notably, champions Bayern Munich – despite boasting a team containing several Rio 2016 gold-medal winners – were held 1-1 at home by Freiburg. One of those Rio 2016 heroines, Melanie Behringer, opened the scoring past national team colleague Laura Benkarth, eventually allowing Hasret Kayikci to equalise for the visitors. There was also little joy for fellow heavyweights Wolfsburg who could manage no more than a scoreless draw at SC Sand.
UEFA Women’s Champions League runners-up FFC Frankfurt, took full toll with an 8-0 rout of Borussia Monchengladbach. Frankfurt forward Mandy Islacker took a huge step towards retaining her top-scorer crown by bagging a hat-trick to open the campaign. Good news also for Turbine Potsdam who commenced a new era - long-serving coach Bernd Schroder retired during the off-season - with a confident 3-0 win at Hoffenheim.
USA: Spirit in the sky
Washington Spirit are flying high after they became the first side into the NWSL play-offs. Jim Gabarra’s under-rated side were held 1-1 by Western New York Flash on the weekend, but it was enough to earn a third successive appearance in the play-offs. And the club will have the opportunity to claim its first silverware in a full midweek round, with the NWSL Shield for the first-past-the-post winners in the offing. With three rounds remaining Spirit boast a four-point lead over Portland Thorns. It was another red-letter day for the Pacific northwest side as Denmark forward Nadia Nadim bagged a hat-trick en route to a 5-1 win over Boston Breakers, in front of a buoyant 17,000 crowd.
Kealia Ohai became the league’s top-scorer after the former FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup winner scored a double as Houston Dash defeated Orlando Pride 4-2 to keep their slim play-off hopes alive, though the result ended the post-season hopes of the league’s new club. There was better news for reigning champions Kansas City who are still in the hunt thanks to Yael Averbuch’s late winner in a 2-1 triumph over Sky Blue FC. Seattle Reign remain four-points off a semi-final position as third-placed Chicago Red Stars came from 2-0 down to earn a share of the spoils.
Top three: Washington Spirit (36 points), Portland Thorns (32), Chicago Red Stars (29)
Several new seasons opened in Europe, including in Spain where heavyweights Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid all won, but it is Valencia who are on top on goal difference. There is also a surprise leader in the Netherlands with newcomer Achilles ’29 sitting at the summit on goal difference. All eyes on the opening day, however, were on Amsterdam where last season’s runners-up Ajax gained a measure of revenge over champions FC Twente thanks to Desiree van Lunteren’s lone strike.
Scotland defender Jennifer Beattie scored the only goal of the game ten minutes from time as Manchester City edged a win over fellow heavy-hitters Arsenal to reach England’s Continental Cup final. City will face Birmingham City in next month’s decider after the midlands side claimed a 4-0 win over London Bees. In Japan, NTV Beleza proved they have lost none of their form during the mid-season break by winning the League Cup with a one-sided 4-0 win over JEF United. Yuka Momiki scored twice to help give the Tokyo side a confidence boost as they seek to defend their league crown when the action recommences next weekend.