HIROSHIMA – Two-time defending J.League champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima barely stayed on course for the league and Emperor’s Cup double by beating Ventforet Kofu 3-2 on penalties to reach the semifinals on Sunday.
Hiroshima advanced to the last four for the first time in six years after squeezing past Kofu, which forced the shootout with a 1-1 draw following extra time.
Sanfrecce captain Hisato Sato had pushed his team in front with a 23rd-minute strike, but an own goal by Kazuhiko Chiba just before halftime let Ventforet back in the game.
Kofu, however, failed to capitalize on the gift as Kensuke Fukuda, Koki Mizuno and Marquinhos Parana all missed from the spot to keep Hiroshima in the hunt for its fourth Emperor’s Cup title.
Sanfrecce will face FC Tokyo in the Dec. 29 semis. Tokyo edged out Vegalta Sendai 2-1 in 120 minutes, substitute Yohei Hayashi netting the winner in the final minute — the first goal of his career.
Wilson opened the scoring for host Sendai in the third minute and appeared to be headed to the next round.
But Kosuke Ota invited the additional 30 minutes with Tokyo’s equalizer in the 93rd minute as Vegalta played their last game under Japan’s next Olympic coach, Makoto Teguramori.
Yokohama F. Marinos made it to the semifinals for the third straight year with a 2-1 extra-time win away to relegated Oita Trinita.
Marinos, who lost the league title to Sanfrecce on the final weekend of the season, moved on through Seitaro Tomisawa’s goal four minutes into stoppage time after Yasuhito Morishima had leveled in the 83rd minute.
Marinos will meet Sagan Tosu, who knocked out Kawasaki Frontale 2-0 at home behind a pair of extra-time goals on the counter from Ryuhei Niwa and Kota Mizunuma.