• Kyodo

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Jubilo Iwata sealed promotion back to the J. League top flight with three rounds to spare Sunday following a 3-1 win away to second-division opponent Mito Hollyhock.

The three-time J1 champion’s fourth consecutive win moved them to 86 points, ensuring they will finish no worse than second and return to the first division after a three-year absence.

Jubilo went ahead in the 12th minute at K’s Denki Stadium Mito, with Kentaro Oi heading in from a corner. They doubled the lead three minutes later when Kotaro Omori finished an attacking movement from just inside the area.

Brazilian striker Lukian added a third on a breakaway early in the second half before the host pulled one back with an own goal.

Jubilo midfielder Kosuke Yamamoto said the team, which includes several veteran players, chased promotion with a singular determination this season following a disappointing sixth-place finish last year.

“The whole team overcame last year’s frustration and focused on this season. We’ve been playing our style in each game, regardless of our lineup or who our opponents are,” the 32-year-old Yamamoto said.

In other J2 action, second-place Kyoto Sanga can clinch their return to the J1 as early as next round following a 3-1 win over Blaublitz Akita, with former Nigeria forward Peter Utaka netting a brace at Sanga Stadium.

With relegation suspended in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, the J1 swelled to 20 teams this season but will return to the standard 18 next year. To that end, the bottom four J1 sides will automatically drop, with only the top two J2 clubs going up.

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