Football Ferns beaten by Japan again

The Football Ferns have been beaten 4-1 by FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finalists Japan in the second of their two-match series in Murcia, Spain.

During the second-half, the Asian No. 1 scored three goals in a 15-minute spell to turn the tide of the match after the Ferns led at the break through Milly Clegg’s debut senior goal.

Acting head coach Michael Mayne made five changes to the side which suffered a 2-0 defeat in the first game of the series.

In defence, Ali Riley was ruled out through injury and Rebekah Stott rested seeing Grace Neville and Meikayla Moore come in to replace them.

Kate Taylor replaced Katie Kitching in the centre of midfield to form a double pivot with Malia Steinmetz.

Ally Green replaced Mickey Foster on the left wing and up front Milly Clegg replaced the injured Indiah-Paige Riley.

Japan fielded a full-strength side with all but one of the starting line-up being part of their FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 squad and seven of the 11 playing at top European sides.

Milly Clegg of New Zealand takes charge in the match against Japan at Estadio Nueva Condomina, Murcia, Spain on 3 June, 2024. Women’s International Friendly soccer match.

The Ferns opened strongly, having the better of the opening exchanges against the world number 7 and looking much more dominant around the Japanese goal than in the first match.

On the 22nd minute, the Ferns made their strong start count with 18-year-old Milly Clegg opening the scoring with a brilliant solo goal.

Found on the right of the box by Ally Green, Clegg turned, beating two Japanese defenders in a strong run into the box before smashing it high into the roof of the net past Ayaka Yamashita in the Japanese goal.

Just after the 30-minute mark, Clegg nearly turned provider, turning her marker on the wing before firing in a pinpoint cross which was centimeters away from Grace Jale making it two.

Despite Japan upping the pressure, the Ferns held firm to take a 1-0 lead into the break.

Grace Jale of New Zealandis stopped by Moeka Minami of Japan in the Women’s International Friendly soccer match at Estadio Nueva Condomina, Murcia, Spain on 3 June, 2024.

Japan had the better of the second-half, with the talent and experience in the side coming to the fore.

They turned the tide of the game in a 15-minute spell, scoring three goals without reply.

Chelsea’s Maika Hamano, substituted on at half-time, got the first two, with a stunning long-range volley and a well-taken finish from a quick free kick.

Aoba Fujino scored the third after seizing on a short past and catching the Ferns defence off guard.

The Ferns pushed to fight back with substitutes Claudia Bunge, Daisy Cleverley, Gabi Rennie, Mackenzie Barry, Mickey Foster and Katie Kitching coming on to add fresh legs.

But 10 minutes from full time, Japan made it four after a neat finish from Remina Chiba following a clever headed through ball.

The Ferns are set to face other highly ranked teams in just under two months at the Paris Olympics.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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