NAGOYA – Robin Simovic scored a hat-trick as Nagoya Grampus came from behind to beat JEF United Chiba 4-2 on Sunday to advance to the J. League first-division promotion playoff final.
Grampus, who finished third in the regular season, will play Avispa Fukuoka in the Dec. 3 final at Toyota Stadium. Fourth-placed Fukuoka beat Tokyo Verdy 1-0 at home in the earlier semifinal.
By finishing above Fukuoka in the standings, Grampus have home advantage in the final and need only a draw to win promotion. Both teams are looking to return to J1 after coming down last season.
In-form JEF sneaked into the playoffs in sixth spot on the last day of the season with a seventh win on the spin and needed victory over Grampus to book their place in the final.
Grampus needed only a draw to progress and the home side nearly took the lead when a glancing Simovic header drew a superb save from Chiba goalkeeper Yuya Sato in the 25th minute.
But Chiba snatched the lead with the last kick of the first half. Hirotaka Tameda collected a short corner from Yamato Machida and whipped in a low cross which Larrivey diverted over the line with his heel.
Nagoya leveled in the 61st minute with a hotly disputed equalizer when Taishi Taguchi struck after television replays clearly showed he had controlled Naoya Kondo’s attempted clearance with his hand.
Chiba was then left with a mountain to climb as Nagoya went 2-1 up five minutes later following a horrendous blunder from Sato. The goalkeeper badly misjudged the bounce on a goal kick from the other end and botched his attempt to head the ball clear, allowing Simovic to stroke in the loose ball.
Simovic then made it 3-1 from a tight angle with four minutes left after taking a through ball from Ryota Aoki.
Larrivey pulled one back from the penalty spot for Chiba in the last minute after Gabriel Xavier had fouled Kengo Kitazume but Simovic was to have the last word.
Kim Byeom-yong brought down Aoki and Simovic slotted home from the penalty spot in the sixth minute of injury time to complete his treble and the win.
Fukuoka won the day’s first playoff semi thanks to a fine 14th-minute strike from former Urawa Reds and Yokohama F. Marinos midfielder Koji Yamase.
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