The J. League’s 26th season drew to a close on Saturday with a showdown between two storied clubs that would seem familiar — yet in other ways somewhat alien — to those who watched from the terraces and in front of TV sets in the 1990s.

Instead of Jubilo Iwata and Tokyo Verdy battling for the title as they did so many times in those early years (the latter known at the time as Verdy Kawasaki), on this day they were fighting for the right to play in next season’s first division, as Koki Ogawa’s penalty kick and Taishi Taguchi’s screamer of a free kick spared Jubilo the agony of relegation in a 2-0 win at a packed Yamaha Stadium.

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