The first legs of the J.League YBC Levain Cup delivered in a big way, with one match being played to a draw and the other three all decided by just one goal. That sets the stage for four terrific second legs on Sunday.
The Tricolor held a 2-1 lead approaching the hour mark, when Kenta Inoue was shown a red card. Suddenly up a man, Sapporo got on the front foot with Tsuyoshi Ogashiwa leading the way as he equalized in the 74th minute then won it in stoppage time to send Consa to Yokohama for the second leg with a one-goal advantage.
Nagoya Grampus and Kashima Antlers played a very dramatic contest of their own. It was visiting Kashima who struck first, finding the back of the net just after halftime. It looked like that might stand up as the match entered stoppage time, but Tojiro Kubo scored in the waning minutes to earn Grampus a crucial 1-1 draw that puts them level on points heading to Kashima.
Urawa Reds followed Kashima’s script in their first leg, but were able to finish the job. They got on the scoreboard through Alex Schalk in the first minute of the second half, then held on the rest of the way to beat Gamba Osaka and take a lead back home for the second leg.
There were less dramatics in the capital, where F.C.Tokyo simply took care of business. Adaílton stayed red hot with an early goal then the Gas defense shut down Avispa Fukuoka to earn the win at home.
Now, all eyes turn to the four second legs. All eight teams very much have a chance to book their spots in the semi-finals, but only four can go. Who will move one step closer to lifting the J.League YBC Levain Cup? We’ll find out on Sunday.