The field for the J.League YBC Levain Cup Prime Stage is set after four teams won their Play-off Stage ties and advanced to the quarter-finals.
Avispa Fukuoka entered the second leg of the Play-off Stage ahead of title contender Kashima Antlers, 1-0, but in need of a good showing away from home to advance. It was a tall task, but one Avispa proved up to.
Everaldo Stum and Hayato Nakama gave Kashima a 2-0 lead in the game and 2-1 on aggregate, but Yuya Yamagishi, who scored the lone goal of the first leg, scored the tie-deciding goal in first-half stoppage time. Not only did that level the tie, but it was the away goal that separated the two teams and send Avispa into the quarter-finals.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima did not have nearly the same drama as they moved on in the competition. They topped Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, 3-0, away in the first leg so all they had to do was see out the tie at home in the second leg, which they did. Makoto Mitsuta answered Ryota Aoki’s early goal for a 1-1 draw that handed the Viola a 4-1 win on aggregate.
Nagoya Grampus’ task was similarly simple. A 6-1 win over Kyoto Sanga in the first leg gave them ample breathing room and a goal by Manabu Saito was the only action from the second leg as Grampus moved on with a 7-1 aggregate victory.
Finally, Cerezo Osaka dominated Shonan Bellmare in Hiratsuka to wrap up an impressive tie for the Sakura. A 1-0 home win in the first leg put Cerezo in front, but tenuously so heading into the second 90 minutes. Goals by Matej Jonjić and Hirotaka Tameda in the first 13 minutes put the Sakura in complete control, though, and Hiroshi Kiyotake and Hiroaki Okuno doubled the lead before the 50th minute as Cerezo cruised to a 4-1 win on the day and 5-1 for the tie.
The four Play-off Stage winners will now joining the four AFC Champions League sides, Kawasaki Frontale, Yokohama F·Marinos, Vissel Kobe and Urawa Reds, for an action-packed final eight. The quarter-finals will be played in August.