League Cup

New Hero Award battle heats up

The J.League on Monday announced the current leaders in 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup New Hero Award voting following five rounds of the tournament’s group stage.

Nine out of 10 players from the first announcement, including Jubilo Iwata striker Koki Ogawa, Vegalta Sendai defender Takumi Sasaki and Kashiwa Reysol midfielder Kohei Tezuka, remained on the list.

The only new addition was Vissel Kobe defender So Fujitani, who displaced Omiya Ardija mid-fielder Atsushi Kurokawa.

Voting for the award, which recognises the tournament’s top player under the age of 23, is con-ducted by local media covering the tournament. The winner will be announced before the Novem-ber 4 final at Saitama Stadium 2002.

The sixth round of the Group Stage will take place on Wednesday, May 24, with round-robin play concluding one week later.

[New Hero Award - Mid-Stage Top 10 (After Round 5)]

FW Daiki Suga (Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo)
MF Takumi Sasaki (Vegalta Sendai)
MF Keiya Shiihashi (Vegalta Sendai)
DF So Fujitani (Vissel Kobe)
MF Kohei Tezuka (Kashiwa Reysol)
MF Shoya Nakajima (FC Tokyo)
FW Koki Ogawa (Jubilo Iwata)
MF Yuya Nakasaka (Vissel Kobe)
MF Tsukasa Morishima (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
FW Kyosuke Tagawa (Sagan Tosu)

* Players not listed by votes received

League Cup

Vissel win fourth straight YBC Levain Cup game

The J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage continued on Wednesday with six matches taking across the two groups.

Group A leaders Vegalta Sendai fell behind in the 13th minute against Kashiwa Reysol, but were saved by Crislan’s stunning equaliser in the 94th minute to salvage a 1-1 draw.

FC Tokyo rose to second place after coming out on top in a wild 4-3 win over Omiya Ardija. The match featured a ‘J1’ return for previously-injured midfielder Takuji Yonemoto and a cameo by 15-year-old Takefusa Kubo, in what will likely be the youngster’s last J.League appearance before the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Boosted by Adailton’s brace, Jubilo Iwata claimed Shizuoka Derby bragging rights and third place with a 4-2 win at Shimizu S-Pulse.

Vissel Kobe held on to the Group B lead with their fourth straight win, this time a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Ventforet Kofu. 

Junya Tanaka scored the game-winner for Vissel, while Ventforet defender Yukio Tsuchiya became the oldest goalscorer in tournament history at 42 years, nine months, and 10 days.

Elsewhere, Yusuke Maruhashi’s goal gave Cerezo Osaka a late 1-0 win over Albirex Niigata, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima earning an identical result against Sagan Tosu after Felipe Silva’s effort.

League Cup

Kubo debuts for Tokyo in Levain Cup

FC Tokyo rediscovered their winning ways on Wednesday in the fourth round of the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage with a 1-0 win against Consadole Sapporo.

While home fans were ecstatic to see Kensuke Nagai score the eventual game-winner in the 31st minute, the story of the day was 15-year-old Takefusa Kubo’s first-team debut, the youngster coming on midway through the second half. The loss was the first for Consadole in the tournament.

Vegalta Sendai rose to the top of Group A through goals from Under-21 players Takumi Sasaki and Takuma Nishimura in their 2-1 win at Omiya Ardija, who made it close with Nej Pecnik’s second half effort.

Jubilo Iwata climbed to fourth place with a late come-from-behind victory at Kashiwa Reysol, as Japan Under-20 national team call-up Koki Ogawa netted his fourth goal of the tournament with the game-winner.

In Group B, Vissel Kobe won their third straight against Sagan Tosu to retain first place, while Yokohama F. Marinos and Cerezo Osaka found 1-0 away wins at Ventforet Kofu and Sanfrecce Hiroshima respectively.

The fifth round of the Group Stage takes place on Wednesday, May 10.


Suga & Nakasaka lead New Hero voting

The J.League on Monday announced the early leaders in 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup New Hero Award voting following three rounds of the tournament’s group stage.

FC Tokyo midfielder Shoya Nakajima, Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo striker Daiki Suga and Sanfrecce Hiroshima midfielder Tsukasa Morishima are among the top 10, which did not include any defenders or goalkeepers.

Voting for the award, which recognises the tournament’s top player under the age of 23, is conducted by local media covering the tournament. 

The winner will be announced before the November 4 final at Saitama Stadium 2002.

[New Hero Award - Mid-Stage Top 10]

FW Daiki Suga (Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo)
MF Takumi Sasaki (Vegalta Sendai)
MF Keiya Shiihashi (Vegalta Sendai)
MF Atsushi Kurokawa (Omiya Ardija)
MF Kohei Tezuka (Kashiwa Reysol)
MF Shoya Nakajima (FC Tokyo)
FW Koki Ogawa (Jubilo Iwata)
MF Yuya Nakasaka (Vissel Kobe)
MF Tsukasa Morishima (Sanfrecce Hiroshima)
FW Kyosuke Tagawa (Sagan Tosu)

* Players not listed in order of votes received

League Cup

Consadole & Vissel lead Levain Cup groups after third round

The third round of the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage took place on Wednesday night, with six matches taking place across the two groups.

Group A leaders Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo took the lead against Omiya Ardija when Japanese legend Shinji Ono scored in the 16th minute, but they were unable to extend their winning streak to three matches after Ardija’s Yusuke Segawa equalised to force a 1-1 draw.

At Yurtec Stadium, Vegalta Sendai found themselves trailing visiting Shimizu S-Pulse when Tiago Alves scored in the 31st minute. But the hosts were all smiles in the end thanks to second-half goals by Hirotaka Mita, Keiya Shiihashi, and Crislan to make it 3-1.

Jubilo Iwata rookie Koki Ogawa celebrated his first professional goal in the 11th minute against FC Tokyo, then gave home fans more to cheer about when he scored in the 22nd and 62nd minutes to complete the hat-trick. 

Tokyo spent the majority of the match with 10 men after goalkeeper Takuo Okubo was shown a red card in his top team debut, with backup Go Hatano also making his first senior start as a result.

Vissel Kobe rose to the top of the Group B standings at the end of the night, with Junya Tanaka scoring twice in their 4-1 win over Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

Yokohama F. Marinos easily handled Albirex Niigata in their 4-1 win, while Sagan Tosu and Cerezo Osaka slugged out a 4-4 draw that saw Daichi Kamada and Kota Mizunuma pick up two goals each for the hosts and visitors respectively.

The next Levain Cup matchday will take place on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 3, a national holiday in Japan.

League Cup

Consadole win consecutive games in Levain Cup

The J.League YBC Levain Cup resumed on Wednesday evening with six group stage matches taking place around the country.

Ryosuke Shindo’s goal propelled Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo to the top of Group A in their 1-0 win at Shimizu S-Pulse.

Further north, striker Crislan scored his first goal for Vegalta Sendai in their 2-0 victory over Jubilo Iwata. Meanwhile, Omiya Ardija clash with Kashiwa Reysol finished 0-0 after 90 minutes.

Cerezo Osaka remained on top of Group B following their own 0-0 draw at Ventforet Kofu, while Yusuke Chajima gave Sanfrecce Hiroshima a 1-0 win at Albirex Niigata.

Vissel Kobe also found results on the road, with Shuhei Otsuki and Seigo Kobayashi netting in a 2-0 win at Yokohama F. Marinos.

The third round of the Group Stage will take place on April 26.

League Cup

Date and venue confirmed for Levain Cup Final

The J.League on Tuesday announced that the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup will return to Saitama Stadium for a fourth straight year.

The tournament climax will take place on Saturday, November 4, returning the match to its traditional scheduling near the country’s Culture Day holiday.

While the kick-off time will be announced at a later date, the league also confirmed that the match will once again be aired nationally by Fuji Television.

The second round of the Levain Cup Group Stage will take place on April 12.

League Cup

Tokyo win big in Levain Cup opener

The 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup kicked off on Wednesday night with the opening round of the tournament’s group stage.

At Ajinomoto Stadium, FC Tokyo shot to the top of Group A with a 6-0 win over Vegalta Sendai. 

Takuma Abe and Shoya Nakajima picked up two goals apiece, while Peter Utaka made his debut for the club with a goal from the penalty spot as well as an assist.

Elsewhere in the group, Kohei Tezuka’s third-minute effort gave Kashiwa Reysol a 1-0 win against Shimizu S-Pulse, while Jubilo Iwata fell 2-0 to Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

Meanwhile, Cerezo Osaka’s 2-0 win over Yokohama F. Marinos saw them rise to first place in Group B. 

The other two results on the night were draws, with Sanfrecce Hiroshima and Ventforet Kofu playing a scoreless 90 minutes while Sagan Tosu and Albirex Niigata finished at 2-2.

The next round of the Group Stage will take place on Wednesday, April 12.

League Cup

Levain Cup to feature Additional Assistant Referees

The J.League on Thursday confirmed the use of Additional Assistant Referees (AAR) throughout the entirety of the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup.

The extra officials, who help accurately judge decisions within the penalty area, were first used in the J.League last season during the knockout stage of the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup, the J.League Championship and several J3 League matches.

While AAR will feature in the Levain Cup’s Group Stage, newly-introduced Playoff Stage, and Knockout Stage, the league has further announced that they will not be utilised in this year’s MEIJI YASUDA J1, J2, or J3 League seasons.

League Cup

Gamba given knockout stage seed for YBC Levain Cup

Gamba Osaka have received a by to the Knockout Stage of the J.League YBC Levain Cup following their 2017 AFC Champions League Playoff victory on Tuesday.

The 2016 runners-up join Kashima Antlers, Urawa Reds and Kawasaki Frontale in bypassing the group stage, which kicks off on March 15. 

The final line-up for the group stage is as follows:

Group A

Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo
Vegalta Sendai
Omiya Ardija
Kashiwa Reysol
FC Tokyo
Shimizu S-Pulse
Jubilo Iwata

Group B

Yokohama F. Marinos
Ventforet Kofu
Albirex Niigata
Cerezo Osaka
Vissel Kobe
Sanfrecce Hiroshima
Sagan Tosu

League Cup

Levain Cup adds playoff round in 2017

The J.League on Tuesday announced the format for the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup, featuring several changes intended to increase the competitiveness of the tournament.

As in recent seasons, the tournament will open with a round-robin group stage featuring clubs not participating in the 2017 AFC Champions League. 

This phase will take place between March 15 and May 31, with all matches taking place on Wednesdays.

The winners of each group will advance to the knockout stage, while second and third place finishers from each group will face off in a two-legged playoff on June 28 and July 26.

The group stage and playoff stage winners will join Japan’s ACL representatives in the knockout stage, which will begin on August 30 with the first leg of the quarterfinals.

The league has also announced that clubs will be required whenever possible to field at least one Under-21 player in their starting lineup, a regulation intended to increase playing opportunities for young players ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Schedule for the 2017 J.League YBC Levain Cup:

[Group Stage]

MD1: March 15 (Wed)
MD2: April 12 (Wed)
MD3: April 26 (Wed)
MD4: May 3 (Wed, Holiday)
MD5: May 10 (Wed)
MD6: May 24 (Wed)
MD7: May 31 (Wed)

[Playoff Stage]

First Leg: June 28 (Wed)
Second Leg: July 26 (Wed)

[Knockout Stage]

QF 1st Leg: August 30 (Wed)
QF 2nd Leg: September 3 (Sun)

SF 1st Leg: Oct 4 (Wed)
SF 2nd Leg: Oct 8 (Sun)

Final: To Be Announced

League Cup

Levian Cup Final attendees donate for Kumamoto

The J.League has announced its fundraising results for earthquake relief in Kumamoto at the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup Final.

Fans at Saitama Stadium donated 337,652 yen (roughly $3,370), which will be distributed to victims of April’s Kumamoto Earthquake through the local branch of the Japan Red Cross.

The J.League TEAM AS ONE initiative has raised funds for disaster relief since 2011, when it was established to support the Tohoku region in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

League Cup

Chairman Murai statement on Urawa Reds’ Levain Cup title

J.League chairman Mitsuru Murai congratulated Urawa Reds and their hero Tadanari Lee for winning Saturday’s 2016 Levain Cup final against Gamba Osaka.

Mihailo Petrovic’s men lifted their first silverware under the Serbian when they overcame Gamba 5-4 in a penalty shootout, after the scores were tied at 1-1 after extra time.

And Murai praised them for their resolve ending their trophy drought spanning since 2007 when they last lifted the AFC Champions League.

“I would like to congratulate Urawa Reds on winning their second J.League Cup, and becoming the first champions of the newly-rebranded J.League YBC Levain Cup,” he stated.

“Today’s final was a close contest all the way to the last penalty kick, as befits a matchup featuring two of Japan’s top clubs. 

“Both teams played well until the end, but Urawa Reds triumphed thanks to Mihail Petrovic’s keen decision to send on Tadanari Lee, who inspired his team with his crucial equaliser.

“I believe that this title, Urawa’s first in nearly a decade, will inspire the team to even greater heights. 

“The 2016 season is approaching its climax, and I hope that they will soon lead the league again as one of our biggest clubs.

“Next year will mark the 25th edition of the tournament, an incredibly important milestone. I hope we can help it grow into a competition worthy of its history as well as Yamazaki Biscuit Co’s continuous support.

“Last but not least, I would like to thank the many officials in Saitama Prefecture without whom today’s match would not have been possible.”

League Cup

Urawa Reds lift Levain Cup after penalty kick triumph

Urawa Reds were crowned winners of the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup following their 5-4 penalty shootout victory over Gamba Osaka in Saturday’s final at a packed Saitama Stadium.

The clash had ended in a 1-1 stalemate after 120 minutes with Gamba starting brightly, taking the lead in the 17th minute when Ademilson deftly dribbled past the defender to bury the ball past goalkeeper Shusaku Nishikawa.

The Reds found their composure at half time, creating numerous chances in the second half and finally equalising when Tadanari Lee, who would later be named the MVP of the final, scored from Yosuke Kashiwagi’s corner kick just moments after coming on as a substitute.

After neither side was able to break the deadlock by the end of regulation or in 30 minutes of extra time, Nishikawa came up big again to block Gamba defender Hiroto Goya’s penalty kick, allowing the Reds to claim a 5-4 win in penalty kicks in front of a jubilant crowd.

The win gives Urawa Reds their first Cup title since 2003 and their first major domestic title since the 2006 J.League Division 1. 

Gamba will be disappointed to have finished runners-up in a second straight final, after winning the 2014 edition against Sanfrecce Hiroshima.

League Cup

Gamba Osaka’s Yosuke Ideguchi wins Levain Cup New Hero Award

The J.League on Wednesday announced Gamba Osaka midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi as the winner of the 2016 YBC Levain Cup New Hero Award.

The Rio Olympian was praised by media for his performance in the Knockout Stage, receiving the most votes from journalists covering the tournament. 

In addition to creating the away goal that sent Gamba to the final by forcing a key turnover against Yokohama F. Marinos, Ideguchi’s steady play in central midfield has been crucial in allowing captain Yasuhito Endo to take a more active role in the attack, an important factor in Gamba’s progression in the tournament.

“I never thought I could win the New Hero Award so to be honest I’m just incredibly happy,” Ideguchi said. 

“I’m still having trouble accepting that my name will be alongside so many great players who have previously won, and I want to continue to improve as a player.

“In appearing from the knockout stage we knew that a loss would mean the end of our tournament, but captain [Yasuhito] Endo and the rest of my team-mates brought a sense of stability and created an environment that allowed a stress-free approach to each match. 

“I’m looking forward to the Final and hope to make my presence felt on the pitch.”

In addition to the five million yen (~$5000) prize, Ideguchi will receive a one-year supply of products from tournament sponsors Yamazaki Biscuit Co Ltd.

The sold-out Levain Cup Final will take place on October 15 between Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka at Saitama Stadium.

League Cup

Reds to face Gamba in Levain Cup Final

Urawa Reds and Gamba Osaka booked their places in Saturday’s J.League YBC Levain Cup Final after triumphing in their respective semi-final matchups.

Playing for a chance to contest the final in their home stadium, the Reds earned an emphatic 3-1 victory over FC Tokyo thanks to Shinzo Koroki’s hat-trick in the 24th, 38th, and 53rd minutes. 

New Hero Award candidate Shoya Nakajima scored for Tokyo in the 81st minute, but it was too little, too late for the capital side who fell 5-2 on aggregate.

At Nissan Stadium, it was Yokohama F. Marinos who took the lead in the 56th minute thanks to Sho Ito’s effort, but Yasuhito Endo’s spirited response from close range allowed Gamba to advance to their third straight final.

The Saitama Stadium showdown between two of the league’s co-founders will kick off on Saturday, October 15 at 13:00 JST.

League Cup

Reds win in Levain Cup semi-final

The first leg of the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup semi-finals took place on a rainy Wednesday night in Japan.

At Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium, Urawa Reds took a large step toward the final at their home ground of Saitama Stadium with a 2-1 win at FC Tokyo. 

The hosts took the lead shortly into the second half thanks to Keigo Higashi, but the Reds managed their third come-from-behind victory against the capital club this season with goals from Toshiyuki Takagi and Yuki Muto.

Further west at Osaka’s Suita Stadium, Gamba Osaka and Yokohama F. Marinos battled to a scoreless draw, with neither team able to capitalise on their chances.

The return leg will take place on Sunday with Urawa Reds hosting FC Tokyo at Saitama Stadium and Yokohama F. Marinos facing Gamba Osaka at Nissan Stadium, just six days ahead of the October 15 final.

League Cup

Urata to sing national anthem at Levain Cup Final

Singer and talent Naoya Urata will sing the national anthem before the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup Final at Saitama Stadium, the league announced on Monday.

The 33-year-old is the leader of popular J-Pop group AAA, who in November will hold shows at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome as well as the Tokyo Dome for the first time to mark the October 5 release of their 52nd single.

The two finalists in the cup tournament will be determined in the semi-final round on October 5 and 9, with FC Tokyo facing Urawa Reds and Yokohama F. Marinos taking on Gamba Osaka in their respective series.

League Cup

Sekine, Ideguchi amongst New Hero Award leaders

The J.League on Monday announced the current voting results of the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup New Hero Award.

Voting results following the conclusion of the quarterfinals saw eight new players enter the Top 12, including three from semi-finalists Gamba Osaka, two from FC Tokyo, and one each from Urawa Reds and Yokohama F. Marinos.

The award, which recognizes the tournament’s top player under the age of 23 years old, will be determined by a selection committee including league chairman Mitsuru Murai. 

The committee will base its deliberations on votes submitted by attending Japanese media.

New Hero Award - Top 12
(Players not listed in voting order)

MF Takahiro Sekine (Urawa Reds)
MF Ataru Esaka (Omiya Ardija)
MF Mateus (Omiya Ardija)
DF Sei Muroya (FC Tokyo)
MF Shoya Nakajima (FC Tokyo)
FW Cayman Togashi (Yokohama F. Marinos)
DF Ryoma Ishida (Jubilo Iwata)
MF Yosuke Ideguchi (Gamba Osaka)
FW Ademilson (Gamba Osaka)
FW Hiroto Goya (Gamba Osaka)
MF Yuya Nakasaka (Vissel Kobe)
DF Takehiro Tomiyasu (Avispa Fukuoka)

League Cup

Levain Cup Final early bird ticket sale lottery opens

Advance ticketing sales applications for the 2016 J.League YBC Levain Cup Final have begun at J.League Ticket, the league’s domestic ticketing website.

Supporters of the four clubs in the semifinals may apply to enter a ticket lottery in the event that their team reaches the tournament final, which will take place on October 15 at Saitama Stadium.

The lottery will be open through October 8; fans will be notified of their results on the night of October 9 following the second leg of the semi-final.

Fans may apply through J.League Ticket (Japanese language only, site registration required)