The penultimate round of the 2018 J.League YBC Levain Cup Group Stage took place on Wednesday night as 16 clubs continued to fight for a place in the Playoff Stage.
Vegalta Sendai took the lead in Group A through Shunsuke Motegi’s hat trick in a 4-2 win over Yokohama F. Marinos. With both teams at eight points, the odd team out are FC Tokyo whose exit was sealed in a 3-2 loss at Albirex Niigata.
The wild encounter saw four goals scored in the final 15 minutes of regular time, including Naoki Kawaguchi’s 91st-minute winner.
In Group B, Hidetaka Kanazono’s double helped to secure a 3-0 win for Ventforet Kofu at Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo, who clinched their Group Stage exit. Ventforet are guaranteed at least a second place finish in the group after Jubilo Iwata won 2-1 against Shizuoka Derby rivals Shimizu S-Pulse.
Urawa Reds rose to the top of Group C, with Martinus and Lee Tadanari scoring in a 2-0 win over Nagoya Grampus. Gamba Osaka climbed to second place with a 3-2 win at Sanfrecce Hiroshima, who with seven points are still in contention heading into the sixth round.
Vissel Kobe, who have already clinched advancement to the next phase of the competition, suffered their first loss of the stage in a 4-3 defeat to visiting Shonan Bellmare.
V-Varen Nagasaki, who lost 2-1 at Sagan Tosu in a Kyushu Derby showdown, will need a sixth round win against Bellmare to join Vissel in the Playoff Stage.
The conclusion of the Group Stage will take place on Wednesday, May 16.