For the first time ever, Avispa Fukuoka are the holders of a major trophy! Avi defeated Urawa Reds, 2-1, in front of a mammoth crowd at the Japan National Stadium to win the J.League YBC Levain Cup and make club history.
Avispa had a marvelous run to reach the first cup final in the history of the club and their fans poured into Tokyo for the massive match. With the Urawa fans filling the other end of the stadium in full voice, it was a magnificent atmosphere as the teams took to the pitch.
Fukuoka showed no nerves despite their inexperience and took the lead after just five minutes. Kazuya Konno’s excellent cross found Hiroyuki Mae at the back post for the tap in, sending the Avispa supporters wild.
With an early lead, Fukuoka were able to settle into a defensive block and keep Urawa at bay. They rarely allowed the Reds to find space and chances were rare as the match neared halftime. That’s when Avispa pounced again, catching Urawa out as Daiki Miya guided home another low cross to double the Fukuoka lead just before the break.
It looked like Avispa would put the match away early in the second half when they earned a penalty kick that could have stretched their lead to three, but Shusaku Nishikawa made a terrific stop to keep the Reds in the match.
Avispa were content to defend the rest of the way and that proved especially precarious as the Reds brought in fresh legs from the bench. Urawa began to create chances and finally broke through when Takahiro Akimoto did a fabulous job to bring down a long ball, hold off a defender and finish.
The Reds continued to push and nearly found an equalizer on multiple occasions, but Takumi Nagaishi made an outstanding stop to deny them once and Douglas Grolli turned Bryan Linssen’s point blank chance away with a sliding block.
As the match entered eight minutes of stoppage time, Avispa were exhausted and completely on the back foot, simply hoping to survive. They got a sign their triumph was meant to be when Urawa’s final foray forward saw José Kanté’s blistering shot from 20 yards beat every defender and Nagaishi, only to be denied by the post.
When the final whistle went, the Avispa end erupted. Finally, they had reached the mountaintop and lifted a major trophy. Both players and fans were in tears, overcome by joy as their club reigned supreme on a famous day for Fukuoka.