With three weeks to go until the UEFA Women's Champions League round of 32, the leading contenders have put their domestic campaigns on hold for the opening set of FIFA Women's World Cup qualifiers. UEFA.com sees how the leagues are shaping up, with Arsenal LFC's long reign over in England and the Swedish title race hotting up.
The two European hopefuls, FCR Malmö and Tyresö FF, are locked once again in a title race. Malmö, pipped on the final day by Tyresö last year, have not looked back since a 3-2 win at the champions on 10 August, the 2-0 victory at Mölndal BK with goals from Anja Mittag (who recently signed a long-term contract, as did Lina Nilsson) and Ramona Bachmann their fifth in a row. Their lead is up to four points with four games to go as Tyresö were held 2-2 by Umeå IK on Monday, Marta coming off the bench after injury and setting up the equaliser against her old club.
For the first time since 2002/03, Arsenal LFC will not be champions of England. That was confirmed on Sunday as although Arsenal beat fellow European entrants, fifth-placed Birmingham City LFC, 2-0 with goals from Jordan Nobbs and Rachel Yankey, Bristol Academy WFC came from three down at half-time to beat Doncaster Rovers Belles LFC 4-3. Bristol stayed ahead of the Gunners and moved to within two points of leaders Liverpool LFC, who they visit in the title decider at Widnes on 29 September.
Key to Arsenal's fall were consecutive 0-0 home draws with Lincoln LFC and Bristol within the space of four September days. There was a further blow on Monday for Arsenal when they had the three points they secured from their 3-0 win at Liverpool last month deducted for fielding an ineligible player. That means they cannot finish in the top two and to avoid missing out on Europe for only the second time must win this season's UEFA Women's Champions League. Liverpool, who will be making their debut, and Bristol are confirmed as England's 2014/15 representatives.
LSK Kvinner FK, representing Norway in Europe this season, are now five points adrift of Stabæk FK with four games left. LSK lost ground last Wednesday with a 5-1 defeat at Arna-Bjørnar, the first reverse suffered by either of the top two. They did recover to beat bottom side IL Sandviken 2-1 with two Mariann Knudsen goals on Saturday, but Stabæk overcame Klepp IL 3-0.
Glasgow City LFC must wait another two weeks to secure their seventh straight Scottish title, after being held 0-0 in blustery conditions by neighbours Rangers LFC – the first points (other than a forfeit) dropped by Glasgow for 69 games, a run stretching back to May 2010. Their lead was reduced to 11 by Hibernian LFC, 3-2 winners at Aberdeen LFC. Still, Glasgow will clinch first place with a point at Hibs on 29 September, or by winning any of their subsequent three games.
Deposed as German champions last season by treble-winning VfL Wolfsburg, fellow European hopefuls 1. FFC Potsdam have the early lead having followed a 1-1 home draw with FF USV Jena by beating VfL Sindelfingen 7-0 away on Sunday, with two goals each from Pauline Bremer, Genoveva Añonma and Nataša Andonova. However, defending both the domestic and European titles this season, Wolfsburg have drawn twice, held 1-1 by FC Bayern München and Jena, who levelled on 88 minutes through Amber Hearn.
Beaten by Wolfsburg in the European final in May, Olympique Lyonnais won all 22 of their league games last season, and their perfect run now stands at 36 after three comfortable victories so far this term. On Sunday they sailed past AS Muret 10-1 with a Eugénie Le Sommer hat-trick but even more significant may be the previous 3-0 defeat of one of their title rivals, FCF Juvisy Essonne. Last season's runners-up Paris Saint-Germain FC also have three wins, edging to a 3-2 success at ASJ Soyaux-Charente on Saturday.
Russia is also supplying two teams to the UEFA Women's Champions League, but FK Zorkiy Krasnogorsk and FC Rossiyanka have rather been eclipsed so far this season by Ryazan-VDV. In their first two games Ryazan won away at the top two from last season and they now have seven perfect victories with 2009 European finalists WFC Zvezda-2005 Perm six points behind. Zorkiy are two points further back, having beaten Zvezda 3-1 on Friday when fourth-placed Rossiyanka overcame ShVSM-Izmaylovo Moskva 1-0 with a late Nompumelelo Nyandeni goal.
The two Danish European regulars met on Sunday and Fortuna Hjørring overcame Brøndby IF 1-0 with a Nadia Nadim goal. Fortuna, beaten to the title by Brøndby for the last three years, are six points clear of KoldingQ, who have two games in hand. Brøndby, following their first defeat of the season, are fourth.
This is the first season that Austria have two teams in Europe and both regular champions SV Neulengbach and newcomers FSK St. Pölten-Spratzern have five perfect wins. The league in the other nation with two berths, Italy (represented by ASD Torres Calcio and UPC Tavagnacco), does not start for a fortnight.
This is the second season of the joint BeNe League, and the first where the two nations' teams have been mixed in from the start. Last season FC Twente pipped Standard Femina de Liège on the final day with both teams qualifying for Europe as their respective nations' leading teams. They met again on Friday night and two Shanice van de Sanden goals helped Twente to a 4-2 win.
It leaves unbeaten Twente top but only a point ahead of sc Heerenveen, who have a game in hand. Standard are back in eighth but are only a point behind leading Belgian club VVD Lierse SK with a game in hand.
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