League Cup

Here comes the 2020 Season! Title holders Kawasaki face Shimizu, while Yokohama FC make the first appearance in 13 years.

This season’s Levain Cup starts on February 16, ahead of the J.League. It’s a tournament that has a different appeal when compared with the League; for example, more focus goes on the development of youngsters and there are clashes between J1 and J2 teams. Last year, Kawasaki Frontale lifted the cup for the first time. What kind of drama will unfold this year?

In match-day 1, title holders Kawasaki Frontale meet Shimizu S-Pulse in Group A. In addition to the new 4-3-3 formation, new signings, rookies Reo Hatate and Kaoru Mitoma, could generate an element of surprise for Kawasaki. Meanwhile, it will be the first match for Shimizu under new manager Peter Cklamovski. The former Yokohama F.Marinos assistant coach is working on a new style of football, and it will be interesting to see the performance of Tokyo Olympics generation’s Yugo Tatsuta.

In the same group, Nagoya Grampus host Kashima Antlers. In the second year under Massimo Ficcadenti, Nagoya are trying to build a more offensive style of football. Expectations are high for new signings Hiroyuki Abe and Sho Inagaki. Kashima joined the group stage after getting eliminated in the playoff round of the AFC Champions League. The disappointment was partly due to lack of preparation, but they now had two more weeks to train since the continental defeat. New manager Zago surely wants to show improvement in a team that saw a lot of changes during this past winter.

In Group B, Urawa Reds will face Vegalta Sendai at home. The biggest talking point for them is the new 4-4-2 system. Many fans are also interested to see what new striker Leonardo and rookie Hidetoshi Takeda can add to the team. Sendai begin a new challenge under new manager Takashi Kiyama. It is worrying that there are many injuries among their attackers, but they are looking for a positive result ahead of the opening of J1 League.

Cerezo Osaka has a home game against Matsumoto Yamaga. Last season’s best defense in J1 will provide a solid foundation in its second year under Miguel Ángel Lotina, while rookie Jun Nishikawa could add some new flavors to the team. Matsumoto Yamaga are the only J2 side in the competition this year. New foreign players like Augusto will be the key for the team that is making a new start under manager Keiichiro Nuno.

Group C sees Yokohama FC meet Sanfrecce Hiroshima. Yokoahama FC returned to J1 for the first time in 13 years and this is their first Levain Cup since 2007. Kazuyoshi Miura is likely to miss the opening match due to injury, but it will be interesting to see how well youngsters like Koki Saito and Yusuke Matsuo do against a J1 side. Meanwhile, one can expect continuity from Hiroshima after they kept most of the regular players from last season’s squad. Keisuke Osako, Hayato Araki and Tsukasa Morishima who impressed last season, are expected to take even more important roles this year.

Sagan Tosu will host Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. They are trying the 4-3-3 formation in an effort to become a more attack-minded team. Tomoya Koyamatsu, who joined from Kyoto Sanga FC, could be a key player. Sapporo will kick off this year’s Levain Cup campaign with even stronger determination after losing in the final last year. The third season under Mihailo Petrovic sees no significant change, but university graduates such as Shunta Tanaka and Takuro Kaneko could bring a breath of fresh air into the team.

In Group D, Shonan Bellmare will face Oita Trinita. It could be a hard-fought game between two teams willing to play 90 minutes at high intensity. The performance of the new comers, Yuto Iwasaki and Akimi Barada for Shonan and Kei Chinen and Daiki Watari for Oita, could be an important factor.

Finally, the clash between Gamba Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol is one of the big matches of the opening day. Since both teams boast powerful attackers in Takashi Usami, on one side, and Olunga and Cristiano on the other, this could turn into an exciting goal show. One should also keep an eye on the many youngsters of the Tokyo Olympics generation; Gamba’s Yuya Fukuda and Mizuki Ichimaru, and Kashiwa’s Taiyo Koga and Takuma Ominami.



League Cup

Kawasaki Frontale win Levain Cup for the first time!

Kawasaki Frontale have beaten Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo on penalties in the J.League YBC Levain Cup final on October 26 and lifted the trophy for the first time in their history.

Consadole’s convincing start had led to the opening goal of the match in the 10th minute, when Daiki Suga scored with a powerful volley. Frontale retaliated with Hiroyuki Abe’s equalizer before half-time, and the first 45 minutes ended with both teams tied at 1-1.

It was the Kawasaki team that created more chances in the second half, and finally in the 88th minute, Yu Kobayaski found the net to push his side toward the trophy. However, Sapporo didn’t give up, and Kazuki Fukai’s header finished off a corner taken by Akito Fukumori deep into additional time to send the game into extra-time.

Gaining momentum, Consadole pushed forward and Fukumori scored a stunning free kick in the 99th minute, but that was still not the end of the drama. Despite Shogo Taniguchi being sent off, 10-men Frontale drew level again in the 109th minute, with Yu Kobayashi scoring his second goal from a set piece.

The game went on to penalties after each team scoring three goals in the 120 minutes. While Kawasaki’s fourth kicker Shintato Kurumaya failed to convert, Sapporo’s 5th shot by Naoki Ishikawa was saved by Shota Arai. Frontale’s goalkeeper also saved Sapporo’s next shot by Ryosuke Shindo and sealed Kawasaki’s victory. It was Kawasaki Frontale's fifth appearance in the Levain Cup final and the first time they lifted the trophy.

League Cup

Frontale, Antlers & Reysol through to Levain Cup last eight

The second leg of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup Playoff Stage took place on Saturday, with four teams booking their spots in the quarterfinals alongside Kawasaki Frontale, Kashima Antlers, Cerezo Osaka and Kashiwa Reysol.

Yokohama F. Marinos took a 4-2 first leg lead into Noevir Stadium, falling behind in the 13th minute to Vissel Kobe but equalising 1-1 on a 66th minute Hugo Viera goal and advancing 5-3 on aggregate.

Shonan Bellmare fell 3-1 at Vegalta Sendai, with Ryunosuke Noda’s left-footed grounder in the 69th minute just enough to give the BMW Stadium residents a 4-3 aggregate victory and help them reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 1996.

After a first leg defeat to Ventforet Kofu at Chuo Bank Stadium, Urawa Reds raced to a 2-0 led with goals from Shinzo Koroki in the 19th and 24th minutes. Just three minutes later, Kazuki Kozuka responded for the visitors, eventually giving them a 3-2 aggregate victory and sending the J2 side to the next stage.

At Yamaha Stadium, Hwang Ui Jo scored a 40-minute hat trick, giving Gamba Osaka a 3-2 victory on the day and a 4-2 aggregate win over Jubilo Iwata.

The draw for the Knockout Stage will take place on Sunday, July 29, with quarterfinals to take place on September 5 and 9, semifinals scheduled for October 10 and 14, and the final set for October 27 at Saitama Stadium.

League Cup

F. Marinos & Gamba take Levain Cup playoff leads

The first leg of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup Playoff Stage took place this weekend, with four matches taking place on Saturday as eight clubs vied to join Japan’s AFC Champions League representatives in the quarterfinals.

At Mitsuzawa Stadium, Yokohama F. Marinos came out on top of Vissel Kobe in a 4-2 win which featured three lead changes. Wellington scored early for the visitors but his effort was stopped by Yuki Otsu in the 23rd minute before Yeruhito Nakagawa put F. Marinos ahead shortly after. 

Kazuma Watanabe made it 2-2 in the 55th minute, but goals by Jun Amano and Hugo Viera later in the second half gave the hosts a key win ahead of next weekend’s return leg at Noevir.

Ventforet Kofu, the only J2 League side remaining in the tournament, notched a 2-0 victory over Urawa Reds through goals by Kazuki Kozuka and Yuta Imazu.

At Panasonic Stadium Suita, a seventh-minute Hwang Ui-jo goal was enough for Gamba Osaka to sneak past Jubilo Iwata.

Meanwhile, Tsukasa Umesaki netted twice in the 15th and 71th minutes, with Takuya Okamoto scoring in stoppages to see Shonan Bellmare end the day with a 3-0 win over visiting Vegalta Sendai.

The second leg will take place on Saturday, June 9.

League Cup

Yokohama F. Marinos, Urawa Reds progress in Levain Cup

The stage is set for the Playoff Stage of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup following the sixth and final Group Stage round on Wednesday night.

Vegalta Sendai topped Group A after defending an own goal to secure a 1-0 victory at FC Tokyo, reaching 11 points in the process. Yokohama F. Marinos will join them after Takahiro Ogihara scored on a free kick to complete a 2-1 comeback win against Albirex Niigata.

In Group B, Jubilo Iwata secured advancement with a 1-0 win over Ventforet Kofu, who had already clinched a spot in the next phase. That result left Shimizu S-Pulse feeling blue despite a 3-0 win at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

Uarwa Reds finished on top of Group C thanks to Lee Tadanari’s 76th-minute goal against his former club Sanfrecce Hiroshima, handing Oswaldo Oliveira’s side a 1-0 win. They will be joined by Gamba Osaka, who progressed despite a 4-1 loss to Nagoya Grampus.

With one spot remaining in Group D after Vissel Kobe clinched last week, it was Shonan Bellmare who came out on top with a 2-0 win over V-Varen Nagasaki. At Noevir Stadium, Vissel and Sagan Tosu fought to a 1-1 draw.

The Playoff Stage will take place on June 2 and 9, with the winners joining ACL representatives Kawasaki Frontale, Kashima Antlers, Cerezo Osaka, and Kashiwa Reysol in the Knockout Stage.

Playoff Stage Pairings:

Shonan Bellmare vs. Vegalta Sendai
Gamba Osaka vs. Jubilo Iwata
Ventforet Kofu vs. Urawa Reds
Yokohama F. Marinos vs. Vissel Kobe

League Cup

FC Tokyo out of Levain Cup in 3-2 loss

The penultimate round of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage took place on Wednesday night as 16 clubs continued to fight for a place in the Playoff Stage.

Vegalta Sendai took the lead in Group A through Shunsuke Motegi’s hat trick in a 4-2 win over Yokohama F. Marinos. With both teams at eight points, the odd team out are FC Tokyo whose exit was sealed in a 3-2 loss at Albirex Niigata. 

The wild encounter saw four goals scored in the final 15 minutes of regular time, including Naoki Kawaguchi’s 91st-minute winner.

In Group B, Hidetaka Kanazono’s double helped to secure a 3-0 win for Ventforet Kofu at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, who clinched their Group Stage exit. Ventforet are guaranteed at least a second place finish in the group after Jubilo Iwata won 2-1 against Shizuoka Derby rivals Shimizu S-Pulse.

Urawa Reds rose to the top of Group C, with Martinus and Lee Tadanari scoring in a 2-0 win over Nagoya Grampus. Gamba Osaka climbed to second place with a 3-2 win at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who with seven points are still in contention heading into the sixth round.

Vissel Kobe, who have already clinched advancement to the next phase of the competition, suffered their first loss of the stage in a 4-3 defeat to visiting Shonan Bellmare. 

V-Varen Nagasaki, who lost 2-1 at Sagan Tosu in a Kyushu Derby showdown, will need a sixth round win against Bellmare to join Vissel in the Playoff Stage.

The conclusion of the Group Stage will take place on Wednesday, May 16.

League Cup

Jo fires Nagoya Grampus to Sanfrecce victory

The fourth round of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage took place on Wednesday night as 16 participating clubs continued to vie for a place in the Knockout Stage.

In Group A, FC Tokyo netted two goals in the first half at Ajinomoto Stadium but Yokohama F. Marinos responded in the second half as Sho Ito scored twice to finish the match in a 2-2 draw. The other match featured a Tatsuya Tanaka brace as Albirex Niigata won 3-1 against Vegalta Sendai, earning their first victory of the competition.

Vying for first place in a chaotic Group B, Shimizu S-Pulse took an early lead against Ventforet Kofu through Kazuya Murata’s first minute goal. Ventforet drew even through an own goal in the 50th minute, with the match ending in a 1-1 draw. At Yamaha Stadium, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo won 3-2 against Jubilo Iwata thanks to a 90th-minute game-winner by Takumi Miyayoshi, invigorating their knockout stage hopes.

Group C leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima suffered their first loss of the tournament at Nagoya Grampus, falling 1-2 after Brazilian ace Jo scored in the 78th minute to complete the hosts’ second half comeback. The encounter between Gamba Osaka and Urawa Reds was decided by Kosuke Taketomi’s goal which gave Reds a 1-0 win and sent them to the top of the group on tiebreakers.

High school graduate Yuta Goke’s striker propelled Vissel Kobe to a 2-1 win over V-Varen Nagasaki in Group D, extending their total to 10 points. Meanwhile, the match between Sagan Tosu and Shonan Bellmare ended in a scoreless draw.

League Cup

Nagasawa scores four in Gamba’s Levain Cup romp

The Group Stage of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup hit its halfway point on Wednesday night as participating clubs took part in the third round of action.

Yokohama F. Marinos kept their Group A lead thanks to Sho Ito’s brace in a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Albirex Niigata. Vegalta Sendai rose to second in the group with a 3-0 win over FC Tokyo featuring Ryo Germain’s opener and a Koji Hachisuka brace.

In Group B, Koya Kitagawa and Chong Tese scored for Shimizu S-Pulse in a 2-1 win over Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo. Jubilo Iwata needed late heroics from substitute Daigo Araki, who scored twice for a 3-2 win against Ventforet Kofu. Those results leave S-Pulse, Jubilo, and Ventforet tied at six points, with Consadole yet to earn a result after three matches.

Group C leaders Sanfrecce Hiroshima hosted Urawa Reds, who managed a scoreless draw under interim manager Tsuyoshi Otsuki. In the group’s other match, Gamba Osaka striker Shun Nagasawa ran rampant with four goals in a 4-1 win at Nagoya Grampus to lift Gamba into second place.

Vissel Kobe easily handled hosts Shonan Bellmare for a 3-0 win in Group D, maintaining their grip on first place. V-Varen Nagasaki trail Vissel in goal difference after a 3-2 win against Sagan Tosu, who are the only side in the group without a point.

The next match day will take place on Wednesday, April 18.

League Cup

Kubo scores first Levain Cup goal for Tokyo’s first 2018 win

The 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup resumed on Wednesday night with the second round of Group Stage action.

Struggling at home against Albirex Niigata, FC Tokyo found a saviour in 16-year-old Takefusa Kubo who scored his first top team goal just six minutes after stepping onto the pitch as a substitute. 

The 1-0 win saw Tokyo rise to second place in Group A after leaders Yokohama F. Marinos held Vegalta Sendai to a 0-0 draw.

Ventforet Kofu kept their lead in Group B thanks to a 30th-minute goal by Kota Mori, which was enough for a 1-0 win over Shimizu S-Pulse. Jubilo Iwata managed a 1-0 win at Consadole Sapporo thanks to Takuya Matsuura’s effort.

In Group C, Sanfrecce Hiroshima edged Nagoya Grampus 2-1 courtesy of goals from Daiki Watari and Teerasil Dangda, with Shumpei Fukahori giving the visitors hope when he halved the deficit in the 77th minute. 

Elsewhere in the group, Gamba Osaka dominated rivals Urawa Reds in a 4-1 victory, ending their competitive winless streak at 17 matches.

V-Varen Nagasaki recorded their first-ever Levain Cup win after defeating Shonan Bellmare 2-1 in Group D, with Ryo Niizato and Keita Nakamura scoring for the hosts. 

The other match in the group featured goals by Kazuma Watanabe and Shuhei Otsuki as Vissel Kobe notched a 2-0 win at Sagan Tosu.

The third round of the Group Stage will take place on Wednesday, April 4.

League Cup

Six players net doubles as Levain Cup opens

The 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup opened on Wednesday night with the start of the round-robin group stage featuring 14 J1 and two J2 League clubs.

In Group A, Tatsuya Tanaka scored in stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw for Albirex Niigata at Vegalta Sendai. At Mitsuzawa Stadium, Yokohama F. Marinos protected Ippei Shinozuka’s early goal for a 1-0 win over FC Tokyo.

In Group B, Ventforet Kofu overwhelmed Consadole Sapporo in a 3-0 win, with Junior Barros scoring twice following Kota Mori’s opener. Further west, Shimizu S-Pulse defeated Jubilo Iwata 1-0 in a Shizuoka Derby match, with Chong Tese scoring the lone goal of the match.

Group C welcomed a pair of lopsided results: Urawa Reds defeated Nagoya Grampus 4-1 on doubles by Shinzo Koroki and Takuya Ogiwara, with Hisato Sato scoring a consolation for the hosts. 

Meanwhile, Masato Kudo and Kosei Shibasaki both netted twice in Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s 4-0 win at Gamba Osaka.

In Group D, Kaoru Takayama’s goal gave Shonan Bellmare a 1-0 win over Sagan Tosu, while Lukas Podolski’s two goals salvaged a 2-2 draw for Vissel Kobe against visiting V-Varen Nagasaki.

The second round of the group stage will take place next week on March 14.

League Cup

Cerezo Osaka win Levain Cup with Sugimoto & Souza goals

Cerezo Osaka won their first-ever J.League YBC Levain Cup on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Kawasaki Frontale.

Yoon Jong-hwan’s side needed less than one minute to take the lead after Kenyu Sugimoto slipped past the Frontale back line to score what would be a key goal. 

Frontale pushed for an equalizer with their clever pass-work, but Cerezo’s all-around superb defending denied the Todoroki Stadium residents time and time again.

After 90 minutes of deadlocked play, Brazilian striker Souza ensured the result for Cerezo when he scored off a counter-attack in stoppages to make it 2-0.

While Cerezo won the Levain Cup in their first-ever final appearance, Frontale continued barren run in the competition after finishing runners-up for a fourth time.

Kenyu Sugimoto was named MVP of this year’s tournament, while Vegalta Sendai forward Takuma Nishimura received the New Hero Award.

League Cup

Frontale join Cerezo in YBC Levain Cup final

Cerezo Osaka and Kawasaki Frontale will contest the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup final after winning their respective semi-finals on Sunday courtesy of last-gasp goals.

In the Osaka derby, newly-promoted Cerezo triumphed 2-1 at Gamba, the 4-3 aggregate win over their local rivals sealed by a bullet header in the 95th minute from Yasuki Kimoto, who added on to Yoichiro Kakitani’s opener to extend the visitors outstanding return to the top table of Japanese football.

After a 3-2 victory in the first-leg of their semi-final against Frontale, Vegalta Sendai harboured genuine hope of reaching the showpiece for a shot at silverware headed into the weekend. 

But a brace from Koji Miyoshi either side of the break followed by Tatsuya Hasegawa’s 90th-minute winner ended the underdog’s fairytale march to the final four in heartbreaking fashion, as they eventually lost 3-1.

League Cup

Osaka Derby ends in draw in Levain Cup semi-finals

The first leg of the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup semi-finals took place on Wednesday evening, with all four teams still in contention for the early November final at Saitama Stadium.

A wild back-and-forth at Yanmar Stadium Nagai concluded in a 2-2 Osaka Derby draw between Cerezo Osaka and Gamba Osaka.

2015 Levin Cup New Hero Award winner Shuhei Akasaki opened scoring for the visitors in the 16th minute but Cerezo struck back in the 23rd through Ricardo Santos with a fantastic lob.

The hosts went on to take the lead in the 81st minute via Yasuki Kimoto’s great header, but Gamba earned a key second away goal just five minutes later courtesy of Haruya Ide.

Meanwhile at Yurtec Stadium, Vegalta Sendai jumped to a 3-0 halftime lead over Kawasaki Frontale as Naoki Ishihara scored the 24th-minute opener and Crislan contributed a double in the 33rd and 45th minutes.

But Frontale fought back in the second half, with Tatsuki Nara and Kei Chinen scoring late in the match to secure what could be two crucial away goals heading into Sunday’s return leg at Todoroki Stadium.

The second leg will take place on Sunday, October 8.

League Cup

Gamba, Cerezo & Frontale reach Levain Cup semis

The second leg of the J.League YBC Levain Cup quarter-finals took place on Sunday, with four teams booking their place in next month’s semi-final round as Kashima Antlers bowed out.

Vegalta Sendai, who arrived at Kashima Stadium with a 3-1 advantage over Antlers, jumped to a 2-0 lead after goals by Hirotaka Mita and Takuma Nishimura. 

Antlers fought back in the second half with a pair of Yuma Suzuki goals and an additional strike by Hiroki Abe, earning a 3-2 win but watching as their opponents advanced with a 5-4 aggregate victory.

At Saitama Stadium with all to play for after Wednesday’s 0-0 draw, Matej Jonjic and Yusuke Maruhashi scored to give Cerezo Osaka a first-half lead over Urawa Reds. 

Yuki Muto and Shinzo Koroki found the back of the net for the hosts in the second half, but a 2-2 draw was not enough for the Reds to continue toward the November final at their home ground as Cerezo advanced on away goals.

Vissel Kobe found little joy against Gamba Osaka at Suita Stadium, with Shun Nagasawa and Jin Izumisawa scoring to clinch a 2-0 aggregate win and send last year’s runners-up toward what will be an exciting Osaka Derby semi-final clash.

After losing the first leg of their Tamagawa Clasico series at Todoroki Stadium by a 2-0 result, FC Tokyo hoped for a spectacular comeback at Ajinomoto Stadium. 

That was not to be the case, with Hiroyuki Abe netting a hat-trick and Elsinho scoring a brace as Kawaski Frontale romped to a 5-1 win on the evening and a 7-1 aggregate victory.

The semi-finals will take place on October 4 and 8, with the final scheduled on November 4 at Saitama Stadium.

League Cup

Frontale see off Tokyo in Tamagawa Clasico

The first leg of the 2017 J.League Levain Cup quarter-finals took place on Wednesday night, with two home sides earning important leads ahead of Sunday's return leg.

At Todoroki Stadium, Akihiro Ienaga converted from the spot and hammered home from open play late in the second half to give Kawasaki Frontale a 2-0 win over FC Tokyo in the third Tamagawa Clasico of the year.

Meanwhile, Vegalta Sendai romped to a 3-1 victory over Kashima Antlers as Yoshihiro Nakano scored the opener on the hour mark and Hiroaki Okubo followed with a double. 

Antlers responded midway through the second half through via Shoma Doi's consolation goal, which could prove important as a tiebreaker.

Elsewhere, the Kansai Derby between Vissel Kobe and Gamba Osaka finished in a scoreless draw while Cerezo Osaka and Urawa Reds also ended at nil-all.

The second leg will take place on the evening of Sunday, September 3.

League Cup

Public Levain Cup quarter-final draw takes place

The draw for the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Knockout Stage took place on Monday afternoon at Fuji Television in downtown Tokyo.

Despite temperatures that soared above 30 Celsius, fans turned out in force to the ‘Minna no Yume Tairiku Stage’ in order to watch the tournament’s first public draw in 10 years.

J.League vice chairman Hiromi Hara and Female Manager Miki Sato were joined by players from each of the eight participating clubs, who drew lots to determine the matchups for the quarterfinals onward.

Here’s what the players had to say about the quarter-finals, which will take place on August 30 and September 3:

Gamba Osaka vs. Vissel Kobe

Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka)

“Vissel Kobe are getting a lot of attention these days, so we want to beat them and advance. It’s a Kansai Derby so we absolutely can’t lose. We’re still disappointed about losing the last two finals. As a team we need to work hard and take that last step together.”

Kazuma Watanabe (Vissel Kobe)

“We can’t lose the Kansai Derby. We want to play well in order to win. To win the title, first we have to beat Gamba Osaka and advance to the semifinal.”

Urawa Reds vs. Cerezo Osaka

Yuki Muto (Urawa Reds)

“Last year I participated in the draw and we won the title. As soon as we won I knew I’d participate in the draw again (laughs). Cerezo Osaka are in good form in the league and we lost to them recently. We want to get revenge against them in this series. We want to play appropriately as defending champions and celebrate with everyone at Saitama Stadium again.”

Yasuki Kimoto (Cerezo Osaka)

“It’s a matchup between two strong sides, but we want to demonstrate everything we’ve developed this season. This is our first season promoted up from the J2, so we want to face this tournament as challengers and not become overconfident. We’re doing well in the J1 and we want that momentum to carry to the Levain Cup.

FC Tokyo vs. Kawasaki Frontale

Shoya Nakajima (FC Tokyo)

“I’m really looking forward to it. It will be an interesting series. Both home and away matches will be difficult, but I want to have fun and play a good match.”

Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)

“We lost to FC Tokyo in the J1 (this spring), so we want to pay them back. We’ll face each other in the league this Saturday, and if we can win at home we’ll have momentum going into this series. It’s home and away, so even if we don’t get a good result in one match we’ll still have a chance.”

Kashima Antlers vs. Vegalta Sendai 

Daigo Nishi (Kashima Antlers)

“I hope both teams will play well. Vegalta Sendai’s home stadium has a very unique atmosphere and we have to stand strong. The home-and-away format makes it different from a regular league match. The first leg is away but I hope we can play well and earn a good result.”

Takumi Sasaki (Vegalta Sendai)

“Kashima are individually very skilled and they’re a strong team who know how to win. But we finished the Group Stage in first place, so we want to continue our good form in this tournament and win the championship.”


2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Quarterfinals Schedule

First Leg (Wednesday, August 30)

Vissel Kobe vs. Gamba Osaka (19:00, Noevir Stadium)
Cerezo Osaka vs. Urawa Reds (19:00, Yanmar Stadium)
Kawasaki Frontale vs. FC Tokyo (19:00, Todoroki Stadium)
Vegalta Sendai vs. Kashima Antlers (19:00, Yurtec Stadium)

Second Leg (Sunday, September 3)

Gamba Osaka vs. Vissel Kobe (19:00, Suita Stadium)
Urawa Reds vs. Cerezo Osaka (18:30, Saitama Stadium)
FC Tokyo vs. Kawasaki Frontale (19:00, Ajinomoto Stadium)
Kashima Antlers vs. Vegalta Sendai (18:00, Kashima Stadium)

League Cup

Cerezo, Tokyo advance to Levain Cup Knockout Stage

The second leg of the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Playoff Stage took place on Wednesday night, with Cerezo Osaka and FC Tokyo advancing to the Knockout Stage after sweeping their opponents.

With a two-goal advantage against Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo in their pockets following last month’s first leg road win, Cerezo eked out a 1-0 result thanks to a 26th-minute goal by Takaki Fukumitsu, who scored his second winner of the round. 

The match also marked the competitive debut of Consadole midfielder Chanathip Songkrasin, who came on to play the entire second half.

At Ajinomoto Stadium, Sei Muroya broke the deadlock in FC Tokyo’s match against Sanfrecce Hiroshima, earning the hosts a 1-0 win on the night and a 2-0 aggregate victory in the series.

Tokyo and Cerezo will join Group A winners Vegalta Sendai, Group B winners Vissel Kobe, and AFC Champions League participants Kashima Antlers, Urawa Reds, Kawasaki Frontale and Gamba Osaka in the Knockout Stage.

The draw for the final stage of the tournament will take place on July 31 at Fuji Television’s studios in Odaiba, Tokyo, marking the first time in 10 years the event will be open to the public.

League Cup

Cerezo & Tokyo take lead in Levain Cup

The 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Playoff Stage opened on Wednesday night, with four second- and third-place finishers in the Group Stage hoping to join the group winners as well as Japan’s four AFC Champions Leagues representatives in the knockout tournament.

Goals by Ricardo Santos and Takaki Fukumitsu gave MEIJI YASUDA J1 League high-flyers Cerezo Osaka a 2-0 win over Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo at the Sapporo Dome in front of 5,192 fans.

On the other side of the country, Takuma Abe’s goal just before half-time was enough to give FC Tokyo a 1-0 victory at Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

The second leg of the Playoff Stage will take place on July 26.

League Cup

Vegalta & Vissel qualify for Levain Cup Knockout Stage

The final matchday of the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage took place on Wednesday night, with several of the participating teams still vying for a place in the Knockout Stage.

FC Tokyo came into their finale at last-place Shimizu S-Pulse needing a win to top the group, taking a 1-0 lead in the 38th minute when Ryoya Ogawa scored his first goal of the year. 

But S-Pulse striker Koya Kitagawa equalised just before the interval, and defender Taisuke Muramatsu scored the winner in the 77th minute to keep the capital side in second place and force their participation in the Playoff Stage.

Goals by Akito Fukumori and Macedo were enough to give Consadole Sapporo a 2-1 win over Kashiwa Reysol, allowing them to overtake Jubilo Iwata for third place after the Yamaha Stadium residents lost 2-1 to Omiya Ardija.

Junya Tanaka’s 52nd-minute goal gave Vissel Kobe a 1-0 win at Albirex Niigata, pipping Kansai rivals Cerezo Osaka for Group B’s first place in the process.

Sanfrecce Hiroshima also snuck into the Playoff Stage, beating Yokohama F. Marinos 2-1 at Mitsuzawa Stadium to finish in third place.

The final standings see Vegalta Sendai and Vissel Kobe join AFC Champions League participants Kashima Antlers, Urawa Reds, Kawasaki Frontale and Gamba Osaka in the Knockout Stage. 

The final two quarter-final berths will be determined by the two-legged Playoff Stage in which FC Tokyo will face Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Consadole Sapporo will take on Cerezo Osaka.

League Cup

Omiya rediscover winning form

Omiya Ardija went some way to making up for their torrid league form by surging to a 4-0 YBC Levain Cup win over Shimizu S-Pulse.

The hosts secured the resounding Group A win on Wednesday, netting twice in either half to issue a response to their recent form and going up to fifth in the group.

Omiya overtook Kashiwa Reysol who stumbled to a 1-0 home defeat to FC Tokyo secured by Ryoichi Maeda’s winner.

The capital side close within one point of Group A leaders Vegalta Sendai, who fought back from letting in the opener to win 2-1.

In Group B, Cerezo Osaka continue leading after they saw off 10-man Vissel Kobe 1-0 following Kota Fujimoto’s lone strike, while Hugo Vieira’s brace helped Yokohama F. Marinos battle to a 2-1 result at Sagan Tosu.

In the final match, Ventforet Kofu came away from Albirex Niigata with a 2-0 victory.