Ventforet Kofu may be in the second division of Japanese professional football but they are now the Emperor's Cup champions.
The Meiji Yasuda J2 side, who beat four top flight teams to make it to the Emperor’s Cup final, finished their amazing Cinderella run by defeating a fifth, Sanfrecce Hiroshima, to win the first major trophy in club history after a thrilling penalty-kick shootout at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.
Ventforet went in front after 26 minutes when Kazushi Mitsuhira found the back of the net to make it 1-0.
For much of the match, it looked like Mitsuhira’s tally might be enough for Ventforet. They employed the same organized and tough defense that took them to the final, keeping Sanfrecce mostly at bay.
The Viola found a way through in the 84th minute, though. Takumu Kawamura scored with only minutes separating the underdogs from victory and sent the match to extra time.
The extra 30 minutes weren't enough to determine a winner, though, and a shootout beckoned.
With the pressure turned all the way up, it was Ventforet who came out diamonds. While Sanfrecce missed one of their spot kicks, Ventforet converted all five, the last of which sent their fan section into a frenzy as the team rushed to celebrate the improbable and momentous Emperor’s Cup title.
Ventforet are the first team from outside the top flight to win the Emperor’s Cup since 2011, when F.C.Tokyo captured the trophy. Not only is it a historic first major honor for the club, but it also comes with a berth in the group stage of the AFC Champions League, sending Kofu into the continent’s premier competition.