Sanfrecce Hiroshima were declared winners of the MEIJI YASUDA J1 League second stage with a 5-0 win over Shonan Bellmare on Sunday, with Douglas netting a hat-trick.
With the landslide victory, Hajime Moriyasu’s men secured their place at the post-season championship final with a place at the top of the overall league table.
The hosts broke down Shonan’s initial resistance with Douglas’ instinctive finish in the 25th minute, before captain Toshihiro Aoyoma missiled in Sanfrecce’s second not a minute later.
With Sanfrecce already cruising, Hisato Sato got up before the break to glance in his 157th career J.League goal, establishing himself as the league’s joint-top scorer alongside Masashi Nakayama.
Despite enjoying several chances, Douglas had to wait until the 72nd minute to add to his and his side’s tally, meeting Kohei Shimizu’s cross to send a diving header past Yota Akimoto.
The Brazilian sealed his hat-trick with a minute left on the clock, blasting home his 21st goal of the season to spark celebrations in the stadium as the championship beckons.
Gamba Osaka will join them fighting for the title there, with the Japanese champions earning the chance to defend their prize at the mini-tournament with a 4-0 win over Montedio Yamagata.
The win for Kenta Hasegawa’s side came courtesy of a devastating five-minute spell after the hour mark in which they netted all four, with Kotaro Omori bagging a brace.
The 23-year-old stepped up to shoulder the goalscoring burden in the absence of Patric, pouncing on a rebound to finally lead against Montedio in the 61st minute.
Takashi Usami started the move that led to the breakthrough and the forward was again instrumental to the second, breaking down the left flank before crossing for Omori to tap in two minutes later.
Substitute Shun Nagasawa was on the scoresheet moments later, glancing home a header from another Usami delivery as Montedio proved unable to react to the sudden onslaught.
Last season’s Treble winners then ensured their presence at the post-season tournament in emphatic fashion with Koki Yonekura’s bullet header from a corner in the 66th minute.
Gamba’s secured their place at the expense of FC Tokyo, whose 0-0 draw against Sagan Tosu saw them bow out of contention in a manner of stark contrast to Urawa Reds 5-2 win against Vissel Kobe.
The first stage winners sent out a statement of intent as they ramp up preparations to win the title on home turf at Saitama Stadium.
Mu Kanazaki opened the scoring with a lovely flick from Takahiro Sekine’s cross in the second minute before goals from Tadanari Lee and Yosuke Kashiwagi put them into a commanding lead before the break.
However, Ryota Morioka’s strike out of nothing after the hour brought Vissel back into the contention after Daisuke Ishizu had netted earlier in the first half.
The Reds were forced to ramp up pressure and duly were rewarded as substitutes Takuya Aoki and Tsukasa Umesaki struck to make sure of all three points.
Atsutaka Nakamura’s strike was enough for Kashima Antlers to down Nagoya Grampus 1-0, while Yoshito Okubo was crowned MEIJI YASUDA J1 League top scorer for the third time in a row with his 23rd goal of the season in the Kawasaki Frontale’s win by the same scoreline over Vegalta Sendai.
Okubo thus moves up to 156 career J.League goals - one behind Sato.
Ventforet Kofu came back from being two goals down to snatch a 2-2 draw at home to already-relegated Shimizu S-Pulse, with Satoru Sakuma’s side eventually comfortably surviving for another season in the top-flight.
Tatsuma Yoshida’s final game as Kashiwa Reysol coach ended in a 1-1 draw against Albirex Niigata, while Yokohama F.Marinos were held 0-0 by Matsumoto Yamaga.