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Tokushima reaches J1 with playoff final victory

by Gus Fielding

Kyodo

Two goals in the space of four first-half minutes from Mitsuru Chiyotanda and Tomohiro Tsuda fired Tokushima Vortis into the J. League first division with a 2-0 win over Kyoto Sanga in the promotion playoff final on Sunday.

Having finished fourth in the regular season, one place behind Kyoto, Tokushima had to win the final to put Shikoku on the J1 map for the first time, while a draw would have been enough for Sanga to return to the top flight since being relegated in 2010.

But Chiyotanda opened the scoring with a thumping header on 39 minutes and a well-taken strike from Tsuda two minutes before the interval sealed victory in the last J. League game at National Stadium before being rebuilt for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“Looking back on the season, we have improved little by little and played almost above ourselves today,” said Tokushima manager Shinji Kobayashi.

“I’m happy and I am going to savor this for now, but it will be difficult in J1 next season and there won’t be any easy matches.”

Defeat was a bitter pill for Kyoto to swallow, having missed out on promotion in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Sanga also finished third last year, but lost in the playoff semifinals to Oita Trinita.

Kyoto made most of the early running, with Kohei Kudo, Michitaka Akimoto and Shigeru Yokotani all going close.

Tokushima goalkeeper Kenya Matsui fumbled Kudo’s seventh-minute shot before gathering at the second attempt, Akimoto headed just wide and Yokotani could only shoot straight at the custodian after a surging run from the impressive Yoshiaki Komai.

Tokushima’s first real chance came on 33 minutes when Junya Osaki shot at Kyoto keeper Oh Seung-hoon, but Vortis broke the deadlock against the run of play when former Nagoya Grampus and Jubilo Iwata defender Chiyotanda got on the end of an Alex corner to silence the Kyoto fans behind the goal.

Kyoto was still reeling from that blow when Tokushima doubled its lead, Tsuda sprinting through the center to take a pass from Hiroyuki Takasaki and score with a powerful shot that gave Oh no chance.

Kyoto pushed forward to try and get itself back in the game after the break, but Tokushima never really looked like it would relinquish its lead.

“I’m in my third year in charge and today reminded me of when we got to the Emperor’s Cup final here in my first year — the atmosphere was similar,” Kyoto boss Takeshi Oki said, recalling a 4-2 defeat to FC Tokyo in the final of the 2011 season.

“Last year we lost in the playoff semis, and this year in the final. The players tried hard and I am grateful for all the support I have had at the club. This season is over now and we will just have to make use of this next season and do better next year.”