NIIGATA – A Junya Tanaka strike lifted Vissel Kobe into the Levain Cup quarterfinals with a 1-0 Group B victory at struggling Albirex Niigata on Wednesday night.
Seven minutes after the break at Denka Big Swan Stadium, Tanaka struck with his left foot, and Vissel held on for a victory that lifted the Kobe club to 15 points and the top spot after the final round of group play.
It is the fourth straight year in which Vissel has reached the league cup’s quarterfinals.
“We managed to break. Despite there being so much tension in a big game, we got the goal and things turned our way,” Vissel manager Nelsinho said of a game in which the first half was a comedy of errors by both clubs.
Vegalta Sendai, who had already wrapped up their group-stage games, clinched Group A with 13 points after FC Tokyo’s 2-1 loss at Shimizu S-Pulse. FC Tokyo finished second, while Consadole Sapporo, 2-1 winners at home over Kashiwa Reysol, were third.
The second and third place teams in each group will continue into the playoff round, where Consadole and Reysol will be joined by Cerezo Osaka and Sanfrecce Hiroshima from Group B.
Takumi Miyayoshi’s 86th-minute goal lifted Sanfrecce to a 2-1 win at Yokohama F Marinos. The win secured third place in the group and a spot in the playoffs, along with Cerezo, who had already completed their group schedule.
In other games, Omiya Ardija won 2-1 at Jubilo Iwata in Group A, and Sagan Tosu won 3-2 away at Ventforet Kofu in Group B.
The playoffs, to be contested on June 28 and July 26, will see Tokyo against Sanfrecce, while Cerezo and Consadole square off.