IWATA, Shizuoka Pref. — Jubilo Iwata became the first club in J. League history to sweep the first and second stages after edging Tokyo Verdy 1-0 in extra time.
Jubilo and Japan midfielder Takashi Fukunishi netted the winner one minute from the end of the second half of extra time.
With one more match left in Division One action, Jubilo collected an unbeatable 32 points to second-place Gamba Osaka’s 27 from a win-draw-loss record of 12-0-2 to capture the league title for the first time since 1999 and third time in all.
Gamba rallied over Kyoto Purple Sanga 2-1 in extra time at Osaka’s Expo Memorial Stadium, which had kicked off two hours earlier than the Jubilo game.
“This season we’ve had a big advantage of being strongly determined to win, which was seen in today’s tough battle,” an emotional Jubilo manager Masakazu Suzuki said with tears in his eyes. “After what happened last season, our players have worked hard for the victory. I’m so proud of our players today.”
Jubilo collected the most points (71) last season but finished second after losing to archrival Kashima Antlers in the J. League Championship Final.
After Gamba’s extra-time win, a draw would have been enough for Jubilo wrap up the title. But the Boys in light blue faced tough resistance from Verdy and it turned out to be a difficult road for the home team to reach the celebration.
“We have no intention of changing our game against Verdy,” Suzuki said before going to the Saturday’s game.
Jubilo launched its crisp attacking soccer from the outset of the crucial game.
Japan striker Naohiro Takahara, who scored 25 goals in 26 games this season, create some brilliant chances for Jubilo prior to being substituted before the start of the extra time. His teammates and midfielders Hiroshi Nanami and Toshiya Fujita as well as forward Masashi Nakayama also threatened the Verdy goal with their shots in a fast-pace game.
But the visitors, who placed fifth before going into the game and who were aiming to make a better finish in the season, defended well to frustrate the hosts. Verdy goalkeeper Yoshinari Takagi was a big headache for Jubilo with several fine saves.
Verdy, put on the pressure in the second half as former Brazil international Edmundo fired off two powerful free-kicks, but Hiromasa Yamamoto reacted well to save the shots.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 120th minute. Jubilo substitute midfielder Jo Kanazawa intercepted the ball from Verdy substitute right-back Hayuma Tanaka on the left flank. Fukunishi quickly got control of the loose ball and fired home the winning blast past Takagi and into the goal.
“I hadn’t scored any goals in the second stage so I’m delighted I could make one in a crucial game like this,” said Fukunishi, who was mobbed by his teammates after finding the net.
“I’m relieved with our win but I’m also excited about my goal. Winning both stages? That will bring us confidence.”
Nakayama added: “It was very tough. But we won the victory by ourselves. This makes me feel so special.”
In the second stage, Jubilo climbed up to second place after winning the first two matches. Iwata fell to fifth with a loss to the Reds on Sept. 14, but soon recovered to take the lead after beating cross-prefecture rival Shimizu S-Pulse four days later.
Jubilo gave away the lead to the Reds on Oct. 12 with a loss to JEF United Ichihara. But the boys in light blue returned to the top on Oct. 23 and never looked back.
Jubilo has added two new trophies as the second stage and the league champions to its showcase, following the league titles in 1997 and ’99 as well as their five previous stage crowns in 1997 (second), 1998 (first), 1999 (first) and 2001 (first) and this year’s first stage.
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