The final day of the J.League YBC Levain Cup brought out the best, and most desperate, in teams as they fought for places in the knockout stages. Whose dreams of lifting the cup are alive after making it through to the next round? And whose cup run has come to an end?
Let’s recap Matchday 6 of the J.League YBC Levain Cup group stage:
Yokohama F·Marinos wrapped up a dominant group stage with a 6-1 win over Sagan Tosu to give them 15 points and put them on top of the Group A table. Takuma Nishimura and Asahi Uenaka each had a brace in the comprehensive victory.
Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo did not finish the group stage on a similar high, allowing Júbilo Iwata to score twice in the final 10 minutes. Consa lost, 3-2, but they still had 10 points, which was good for second place and a spot in the knockout stages.
Group B was wild all the way down to the final day, with three teams finishing level on points atop the group. Urawa Reds and Shimizu S-Pulse played to a 1-1 draw, putting each on eight points, while Kawasaki Frontale were able to overcome Yuki Ohashi’s brace and beat Shonan Bellmare, 3-2, to finish on eight points of their own.
Urawa finished top of the group thanks to winning the tiebreaker of points in head-to-head matches with Frontale and S-Pulse. Frontale finished second in the tiebreaker, but their eight points were the lowest among second place teams in the competition, so they were eliminated from the knockout stages and only Urawa advanced from Group B.
Nagoya Grampus were excellent from the very first day of the cup and finished up the group stage with another win. They bested Sanfrecce Hiroshima, 2-1, to clinch the top spot in the group and a spot in the knockout stages.
Yokohama FC notched their second win of the competition, beating 10-man Vissel Kobe, 3-1, which helped secure second place in the group for title holders Sanfrecce. Unfortunately, the Viola’s second place finish came on just nine points, which was not enough to rank among the three best second place teams in the competition so they did not advance to the next round and their quest to repeat as champions is over.
Avispa Fukuoka are going through to the knockout stages as group winners after beating Kashiwa Reysol, 1-0, thanks to Wellington’s 12th minute strike. Joining them is Kashima Antlers, who scored twice in the first 12 minutes to prevail over Albirex Niigata, 2-0, and secure second place in the group on 10 points.
Group E came right down to the wire with all four teams in the mix to advance or be eliminated. Gamba Osaka landed the biggest win on Matchday 6, beating rivals Cerezo Osaka, 1-0, thanks to Riku Handa’s goal and leaping to the top of the group.
F.C.Tokyo then beat Kyoto Sanga, 3-1, with a very impressive performance that put them level on 10 points with Gamba. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Sanga, who entered the day in first place, but they slipped to third place and out of the competition. F.C.Tokyo lost the tiebreaker for first place to Gamba, but their 10 points in second place was still good enough to advance out of the group and send them onto the knockout stages.
Knockout stage teams
Group A: Yokohama F·Marinos, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
Group B: Urawa Reds
Group C: Nagoya Grampus
Group D: Avispa Fukuoka, Kashima Antlers
Group E: Gamba Osaka, F.C.Tokyo