The road to the J1 will not be easy, as several high-ranked MEIJI YASUDA J2 League clubs discovered this weekend in their Round 37 fixtures.
Current leaders Shonan Bellmare were dealt a rare roadblock in a 3-2 defeat at fourth-place Nagoya Grampus, where Shunsuke Kikuchi’s brace for the visitors was overcome by goals from Gabriel Xavier, Robin Simovic and Keiji Tamada.
Second place Avispa Fukuoka were unable to gain much ground on Bellmare, settling for a 1-1 Kyushu Derby draw at Oita Trinita.
Kazushi Mitsuhira put the hosts in the lead in the 40th minute, but Won Du-jae equalized for Avispa with his second goal of the season early in the second half.
V-Varen Nagasaki climbed to within one point of Avispa and the second automatic promotion spot with a 2-1 win against Renofa Yamaguchi.
After falling behind 0-1 due to Leonardo Ramos’ goal, V-Varen fought back with a tying goal from Masakazu Yoshioka and a game-winner from Keita Nakamura with six minutes to spare.
Matsumoto Yamaga saw their safety margin narrow after suffering a 5-1 thrashing at JEF United Chiba.
At 61 points, they sit just one point above Tokushima Vortis, who were the 2-0 victors at FC Gifu, and Tokyo Verdy, who needed late goals from Douglas Viera and Tatsuya Uchida to take home a 2-1 win at Thespa Kusatsu Gunma.
That dramatic result ensured that Thespa will finish no higher than 21st, all but guaranteeing their relegation at the end of the season.