Shimizu S-Pulse 0, Kashima Antlers 1
Kashima’s strong league play carried over to the cup in a crucial away victory to begin the Play-off Stage. Naoki Hayashi put Kashima in front after just eight minutes, coming free on a corner kick and burying a header from six yards out. Kashima nearly added to their lead not long after, but Kengo Nagai made a terrific save to keep it a one-goal game. S-Pulse pushed for an equalizer, but it was not to be and Kashima left Shimizu-ku with both a win and a crucial away goal.
Kashima Antlers 2, Shimizu S-Pulse 1 (Kashima advance 3-1 on aggregate)
Shimizu S-Pulse needed a response in the second leg in order to spring an upset in Kashima and vault into the next round of the 2021 J.LEAGUE YBC Levain CUP. They couldn’t have asked for a better start, as Thiago Santana smashed home near post for the opener after a terrific through-ball from Akira Silvano Disaro. The Antlers were not to be denied, though, as a trio of Brazilians combined for brilliance. First, Juan Alano’s cheeky lofted finish put them back ahead on aggregate just before halftime. Then, Everaldo sealed the result for the six-time competition winners in the 71st minute with a calm first-time finish from Diego Pituca’s cross.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo 1, Yokohama F·Marinos 1
Consadole had a tall task, taking on an excellent Marinos side, and were keyed in on making the home leg count. It showed, with them threatening right from the start and even rattling the bar. Their bright start showed on the scoreboard in the 26th minute when Ryota Aoki hit a blistering shot from 25 yards that found the back of the net. Consa kept pushing, hitting the bar again and then earning a penalty kick, but Yohei Takaoka made a terrific save of the spot kick and flipped the match. After Takaoka’s save, Marinos came into the match and just before the halftime whistle, Teruhito Nakagawa scored to bring the match level. The match would end 1-1, leaving the home side to rue their missed chances early on when they could have taken a two, three or even four-goal lead.
Vissel Kobe 1, Urawa Reds 2
Urawa went away to Kobe and came away winners, giving them a huge advantage in their Play-off Stage tie. Vissel actually struck first, getting a third minute goal from Douglas, but Atsuki Ito answered with a cool finish off a gorgeous team move. Then, Shinzo Koroki capitalized on a slip by Vissel to walk in on goal and chip the keeper to deliver Urawa the win. Now Urawa, who have been in terrific form, hold both a one-goal lead and have two away goals with the home leg left to play.
F.C.Tokyo 0, Shonan Bellmare 1
Shonan’s Play-off Stage started beautifully thanks to Wellington. The Brazilian provided the deciding moment after 71 largely uneventful minutes when he got on the end of a perfect Takuya Okamoto cross. From there, all Wellington had to do was nod the ball on frame, which he did, and Bellmare were heading back home with a win in hand. Now, F.C.Tokyo will have to pull out a big result away from home in the second leg to keep their dreams of a cup repeat alive.