Football Ferns squander good start to lose 4-1 to Japan in international friendly

Despite leading at half-time, New Zealand have lost the second game in their two-match series against Japan.

A superb goal by Milly Clegg put the Football Ferns 1-0 ahead at the break but Japan stormed back with a strong second half, winning the match 4-1 in Spain.

Japan turned the game around with a triple substitution at the break, while New Zealand lost their way after their solid start.

Acting head coach Michael Mayne made five changes to the Ferns starting line-up from the first match in the series, won 2-0 by Japan.

Rebekah Stott,  Michaela Foster and Katie Kitching were moved to the bench, while Ali Riley and Indiah-Paige Riley were left out of the squad due to injury.

In came Meikayla Moore, Milly Clegg, Kate Taylor, Ally Green and Grace Neville.

New Zealand started the game well, hassling the Japanese when not in possession and pushing forward quickly when they got the chance.

The Ferns played a more direct approach than in their previous game, trying to get the ball into the Japan box more often, and deploying tactics such as long throw-ins from Grace Jale.

The Ferns deservedly took the lead in the 22nd minute with a brilliant solo effort by teenager Clegg.

The move started with a long, probing pass from defender Moore who found Green on the left flank.

Green played the ball into the path of Clegg who beat her marker, darted into the penalty area and smashed her shot into the roof of the net. It was her first goal for the Ferns, scored in her eighth

Main photo: Teammates rush to congratulate Milly Clegg after her goal.

In the 31st minute, Clegg almost turned provider when she played a ball into the Japan penalty area, and Grace Jale could not quite make contact.

New Zealand went into the break at Estadio Nueva Condomina looking confident and deserving of their lead.

Four minutes into the second half, the FIFA Women’s World Cup quarter-finalists drew level.

A hopeful cross into the New Zealand penalty area was headed clear but straight into the path of Japan substitute Maiko Hamano, who drilled the ball hard and low, past a diving Anna Leat and inside the post.

The Japanese created more chances early in the half, making good use of their triple substitution and playing with considerably more urgency.

Japan went ahead on the hour mark when Yui Hasegawa played a ball over the Ferns defence, and Hamano fired past Leat.

Five minutes later, Japan went 3-1 up when midfielder Aoba Fujino struck from outside the area, her shot eluding a diving Leat.

Leat saved well from Hasegawa in the 70th minute.

Japan scored their fourth goal when Leat was left exposed by her defence as substitute Remina Chiba latched onto a ball inside the area, placing it past the New Zealand ‘keeper.

The Ferns used their quota of substitutes, giving players their last chance to impress before the 18-player squad is selected for the Paris Olympics.

Watch the highlights

Match stats

First half 

New Zealand / Japan

Shots: 6 / 3
Shots on target: 1 / 0
Possession: 41% / 59%
Passes: 197 / 277
Pass accuracy: 70% / 81%
Fouls: 2 / 7
Yellow cards: 1 / 0
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 1 / 1
Corners: 0 / 0

Full game

New Zealand / Japan

Shots: 7 / 14
Shots on target: 2 / 7
Possession: 41% / 59%
Passes: 398 / 556
Pass accuracy: 70% / 82%
Fouls: 7 / 12
Yellow cards: 1 / 1
Red cards: 0 / 0
Offsides: 2 / 1
Corners: 0 / 1


Game played on Tuesday, June 4, 2024

New Zealand 1 (Milly Clegg 22′)
Japan 4 (Maika Hamano 49′, 60′, Aoba Fujino 66′, Remina Chiba 80′)


New Zealand’s starting line-up.

New Zealand

Anna Leat, CJ Bott, Meikayla Moore (Claudia Bunge 65′), Katie Bowen (captain), Grace Neville (Mackenzie Barry 76′), Malia Steinmetz (Daisy Cleverley 65′), Milly Clegg, Ally Green (Michaela Foter 58′), Kate Taylor (Katie Kitching 58′), Jacqui Hand (Gabi Rennie 77′), Grace Jale.

Subs not used: Murphy Sheaff, Rebekah Stott, Hannah Wilkinson.

Interim head coach: Michael Mayne


Green 38′.

Japan’s starting line-up.


Ayaka Yamashita, Moeka Minami, Saki Kumagai, Hana Takahashi, Hinata Miyazawa (Miyabi Moriya 72′), Fuka Nagano (Momoko Tanikawa 46′), Yui Hasegawa (Toko Koga 82′), Aoba Fujino, Riko Ueki (Maika Hamano 46′), Risa Shimizu, Hikaru Kitagawa (Remina Chiba 46′).

Subs not used: Chika Hirao, Shu Ohba, Kiko Seike, Rion Ishikawa, Honoka Hayashi, Mina Tanaka.

Coach: Futoshi Ikeda


Hamano 89′.


Referee: Jason Barcelo (Gibraltar)

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