HIRATSUKA, KANAGAWA PREF. – Shonan Bellmare will stay in the J. League first division next season after salvaging a 1-1 draw against J2 side Tokushima Vortis in the promotion-relegation playoff final on Saturday.
Tokushima appeared on track for promotion to the top flight for only the second time in its history when Tokuma Suzuki gave the visitors the lead from a corner kick in the 20th minute at BMW Stadium.
But the hosts, who entered the playoff after finishing 16th in the J1 standings, struck back through Temma Matsuda in the 64th minute.
The forward netted from close range to finish an attacking movement starting with goalkeeper Daiki Tomii deep inside Bellmare’s own half.
The draw was enough for Bellmare to clinch the playoff by virtue of their higher standing.
Under the playoff format introduced last year, the teams finishing third to sixth in J2 meet in an elimination series culminating in a match against the 16th-ranked J1 side for a place in the first division.
Fourth-place Tokushima advanced past fifth-place Ventforet Kofu in the opening round before beating sixth-place Montedio Yamagata to reach the playoff final against Bellmare.