HIROSHIMA - Kyoto Sanga returned to the first division at the first attempt on Saturday after a 0-0 draw away to Sanfrecce Hiroshima in the second leg of a J. League promotion/relegation playoff.
Hiroshima thrice hit the woodwork at Big Arch, but was unable to penetrate Kyoto’s defense and the second-division side held on to its 2-1 lead from the first leg to replace Sanfrecce in the top flight.
“It’s been a really tough season and it’s hard trying to come through the playoff but we have a good team and wanted to do everything we could to get promoted,” said Kyoto captain Ryuzo Morioka.
“I have played for many seasons but this season has been the toughest one, Morioka added.
“It’s been satisfying and it’s great to finish the season with a happy ending like this,” said the former Japan defender.
Ryuichi Hirashige threw Hiroshima a first-division lifeline when he snatched a crucial away goal late in Wednesday’s first leg and Hisato Sato nearly put the home side on level terms on aggregate when he headed Yuichi Komano’s cross against the crossbar on 15 minutes.
Mihailo Petrovic’s men continued to force the pace and Yosuke Kashiwagi fired just wide before Ueslei forced a good block from Kyoto ‘keeper Naohito Hirai.
Kyoto had offered little going forward but switched formation after the break and nearly took the lead when Paulinho forced Takashi Shimoda into action in the 52nd minute, just after Hiroshima defender Ilian Stoyanov had made a crucial goal-line clearance.
At the other end, Japan Under-22 star Kashiwagi hit the bar and Hiroshima was left cursing its luck again when Hirashige clipped the post deep into stoppage time with what proved to be the last play of the match.
After the match, Kyoto manager Hisashi Kato made the following statements to reporters:
“I can’t single out any names but I’ll say that we have got where we are through the united effort of not just the team, but the players who won’t be in the club’s plans next season yet still came today and the fans.
“Sanfrecce have Japan internationals and Olympic team players and we don’t have any.
“But I told the players if they stuck together as a team they would be OK.
“They did and that is what has got us the result.”