OSAKA – Former J. League and Asian club champions Gamba Osaka secured promotion back to the first division after one season in the second tier on Sunday after their 4-0 thrashing of Roasso Kumamoto was coupled with a 0-0 draw between Vissel Kobe and Kyoto Sanga.
Gamba demolished Kumamoto courtesy of goals from Yasuhito Endo, Daiki Niwa, Takashi Usami and Akihiro Sato, but they were made to wait to learn their fate ahead of a late kickoff between their Kansai rivals.
Kyoto kept alive its slim hopes of taking one of the two automatic promotion spots by holding second-placed Kobe, which with a win could have also gone back up at the first attempt after relegation last season.
The result moved Gamba top of the table on 80 points with three games left, one ahead of Kobe and 10 ahead of Kyoto.
With only nine points left to play for, Kobe looks the overwhelming favorites to also automatically return to J1 at the first time of asking thanks to a far superior goal difference over Kyoto.
Kyoto missed out on promotion last season with a two-legged defeat to unfancied Oita Trinita in the playoffs.
JEF United Chiba, who lost to Oita in last year’s playoff final, are fourth on 64 points after a 1-0 reverse away to Consadole Sapporo. Fifth-placed V. Varen Nagasaki closed the gap on Chiba to one point with a 2-0 win over Tochigi, and Tokushima Vortis (60) are in sixth on 60.
Also in J2, evergreen former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura rewrote his record at 46 years old of being the oldest scorer in the second division in Yokohama FC’s 3-1 defeat to Matsumoto Yamaga.
Sakai scores for Hanover
Japan Olympic defender Hiroki Sakai scored for Hanover 96 on Sunday in a 3-2 defeat at Werder Bremen.
With plenty of space, Sakai dribbled forward before unleashing a powerful shot that somehow escaped the reach of leaping 188-cm Bremen goalkeeper Sebastian Mielitz, deflected off the bottom of the bar and into the net.