YOKOHAMA – Tokyo Verdy will face Jubilo Iwata for a place in the J. League first division after beating J2 playoff opponents Yokohama FC 1-0 with a dramatic stoppage-time goal on Sunday.
Brazilian forward Douglas Vieira struck the 96th-minute winner, but it was Verdy keeper Naoto Kamifukumoto who provided the crucial touch in the opposing area at Nippatsu Mitsuzawa Stadium.
With higher-ranked Yokohama needing only a draw to advance, the visitors threw everyone, including Kamifukumoto, forward for a corner kick in a last-ditch effort.
As the kick came sailing in, the 29-year-old Kamifukumoto was first to the ball with a header that opposing keeper Yuta Minami could only deflect into the path of Vieira, who tapped home from directly in front.
“It was a really tough game. We got the result by continuing to fight right until the end,” Vieira said.
“From the start of the season, getting to the J1 has been our big goal. It’s been a difficult season but we’ve kept fighting as one. We wouldn’t have gotten this far otherwise.”
Referee Hajime Matsuo added just over nine minutes of additional time to the second half of the match, which included 43 free kicks and seven yellow cards.
Yokohama almost broke the deadlock in the 94th minute when Yuji Senuma ran onto a ball over the top and beat Kamifukumoto inside the box, but defender Naoya Tamura was just in time to clear it off the line.
Under a new format introduced this season, teams finishing third to sixth in J2 were to meet in a playoff series culminating in a match against the 16th-ranked J1 side for a place in the first division.
But fourth-place Machida Zelvia lacked the J1 license needed for promotion and did not enter the playoffs, leaving third-place Yokohama with a first-round bye.
Sixth-place Verdy advanced to the second round by beating fifth-place Omiya Ardija 1-0 last Sunday.
Verdy will play Jubilo on Saturday at Yamaha Stadium, where the hosts need only a draw to retain their place in the first division.