The final day of the 2022 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage brought fights for the top two places in all four groups. Only those eight teams would advance to the Play-Off stage and continue their pursuit of the prestigious trophy Who came through the final-day fight?
Kashima Antlers are going through as the top team in the group after thrashing Gamba Osaka, 3-1, on Wednesday. Ayase Ueda scored first before Shoma Doi doubled the visitors' lead. Gamba cut the Kashima advantage in half, but Doi scored a second to wrap up a comprehensive win.
Joining Kashima in the next round is Cerezo Osaka, who drew Oita Trinita to finish off their group stage. Mutsuki Kato scored the first goal, only to see Trinita respond with two of their own before halftime. Hirotaka Tameda brought Cerezo level, and then Sota Kitano put them ahead, before Arata Watanabe scored his second goal of the game for the 3-3 draw. It was a thrilling match and good for Trinita to finish with a result, but it’s the Sakura who are moving on.
Sanfrecce Hiroshima had already clinched first place in Group B so their 2-1 loss to Shimizu S-Pulse on Wednesday did them no harm. Takeru Kishimoto gave S-Pulse the early lead and Yuta Taki wrapped it up with the home side’s second goal, putting the pressure on Nagoya Grampus to win in the other Group B contest.
Because of S-Pulse’s win, Nagoya needed to top Tokushima Vortis to finish second in the group and advance to the next round. The competition's holders did just that, starting with a Haruki Yoshida goal after 10 minutes, followed by a Hiroyuki Abe tally for a 2-0 victory.
Kyoto Sanga F.C. are advancing as the top team from their group thanks to a final-day win over Kashiwa Reysol. Genki Omae was the hero for the newly-promoted Meiji Yasuda J1 League side, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory that was broadcast live to global audiences on the J.League International YouTube channel.
Reysol’s loss opened the door for Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo and Sagan Tosu, who were playing in the other match. Toya Nakamura put Consadole in front, only for Jun Nishikawa to equalize. That left the teams with a 1-1 draw, eliminating Sagan from the competition and putting Consa even on points with Reysol for second place. The tiebreaker went to the Hokkaido side, who are now Play-Off round bound at Reysol’s expense.
Shonan Bellmare captured the top spot in the group with an impressive victory on the final day against Júbilo Iwata. Masaki Ikeda scored the deciding goal in the 54th minute and it was a controlled showing from Shonan that earned them a 1-0 win and their place in the next round.
Júbilo’s loss eliminated them from the competition and allowed Avispa Fukuoka to waltz on through. They drew F.C.Tokyo, 0-0, on Wednesday and will progress as the second place team in the group.