Football: Machida clinch maiden J1 promotion with win over Kumamoto

Machida Zelvia secured promotion to Japanese football's top flight for the first time with a 3-0 victory away to Roasso Kumamoto in the J-League second division on Sunday.

With three rounds remaining, the club from the western Tokyo city of Machida sits on top of the J2 with 78 points, eight clear of second-place Shimizu S-Pulse, and can finish no worse than second.

The visitors took the lead through a stunning long-range strike from Zento Uno in the 44th minute at Kumamoto's Egao Kenko Stadium.

Daigo Takahashi doubled the advantage in the 52nd minute and Hokuto Shimoda put the result beyond doubt nine minutes later.

The final whistle sparked jubilant celebrations among Zelvia players, as well as manager Go Kuroda and his coaching staff.

"Right now, the overwhelming feeling is gratitude to so many people," an emotional Takahashi said. "It wasn't just the players on the field, there were a lot of other people who helped us through frustrating times, and we were playing for them too."

The top two J2 clubs this season will be automatically promoted to the J1, while a third team will also go up via a playoff. Only the bottom J1 side will be relegated, as the top flight expands from 18 to 20 teams from the 2024 season.

Zelvia made headlines in July by knocking out reigning top-flight champions Yokohama F Marinos 4-1 in the third round of the Emperor's Cup.

The club debuted in the lower-tier Japan Football League in 2009 and competed in the J2 for the first time in 2012. Tech firm CyberAgent in 2018 acquired management rights for the club, which earned the necessary license for J1 eligibility the following year.

© Kyodo News