J.League YBC Levain Cup Update: Kataller Toyama, V-Varen Nagasaki dream runs end

J.League YBC Levain Cup Update: Kataller Toyama, V-Varen Nagasaki dream runs end

Lower-division giantkillers Kataller Toyama and V-Varen Nagasaki had phenomenal runs at the 2024 J.League YBC Levain Cup, but their dreams were extinguished in the second leg of the play-off round as both were eliminated from the tournament.

Toyama were impressive throughout their run, as the longest-lasting J3 side in the competition beat two J2 sides in addition to defending J1 champions Vissel Kobe. They even drew Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in the first leg of the play-off round, 1-1, giving them a chance in the last 90 minutes.

Things started brightly, with the opening goal nearly going to Toyama on an incredible half-field attempt, but Consadole goalkeeper Takanori Sugeno made a sprawling save. A minute later, the match turned Sapporo’s way as Tomoki Kondo drew a penalty that striker Musashi Suzuki buried.

Sapporo added a second goal through Toya Nakamura to make it 2-0 and 3-1 on aggregate. Toyama kept fighting and Shosei Usui nabbed a consolation goal in stoppage time, but it was not enough as the J3 club’s cup dreams were extinguished.

J2 side V-Varen know a thing or two about upsets, having already defeated J1's Júbilo Iwata and Urawa Reds in the competition. Though they lost the opening leg of their play-off round tie to Albirex Niigata, 2-1, V-Varen fans must have felt they had a chance to pull an upset with the second leg at home.

They nearly did so, scoring first through Edigar Junio, who finished a gorgeous move to give them a lead in the match and bring the tie level on aggregate.

V-Varen then scored what they thought was a winner, only to have it disallowed for offside. Shortly after, Motoki Nagakura scored a wonderful header to deliver Albirex a 3-2 victory on aggregate and eliminate V-Varen.

Elsewhere, the top team in J1 prevailed as FC Machida Zelvia scored the first two goals of the second leg to open up a 5-1 lead on aggregate against Cerezo Osaka. The Sakura responded with two goals of their own, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Zelvia moved a step closer to their first major trophy in club history.

In other action, Katsuhiro Nakayama was the hero for Nagoya Grampus as he scored the lone goal in their 1-0 win over Kashiwa Reysol that put them through 2-1 on aggregate.

Finally, Mutsuki Kato netted a pair of goals in a 3-1 Sanfrecce Hiroshima win over FC Tokyo that finished off a 5-2 aggregate victory for the Viola.

This is the first season that the J.League YBC Levain Cup has included every team from the J.League’s three divisions and the runs made by Kataller and V-Varen gave the tournament even more excitement than ever before.

Now, the five play-off round winners move on to the quarter-finals, where they are joined by the three teams who played in the AFC Champions League knockout stages, Yokohama F·Marinos, Kawasaki Frontale and Ventforet Kofu, in pursuit of the 2024 J.League YBC Levain Cup.