Soccer: Kyoto ensure J1 survival in playoff draw with J2 Kumamoto

Kyoto Sanga retained their place in the J-League first division for next season after holding on for a 1-1 draw against J2 Roasso Kumamoto in the final of the J1 entry playoffs Sunday.

Kyoto, which finished 16th in the 18-team J1, merely had to avoid defeat while also enjoying the advantage of playing at their home venue, Sanga Stadium.

Kumamoto, which finished fourth in J2, advanced to the showdown with Kyoto after coming through the four-team playoffs involving sides who placed third to sixth in the second tier.

Their bid for their first promotion to the Japanese top tier took a huge hit, however, when Kyoto went ahead through Yuta Toyokawa in the 39th minute.

Temma Matsuda's chipped pass behind the Kumamoto backline was let slip by defender Shohei Mishima, allowing the former striker for Belgian side Eupen to steer into the far bottom corner.

In an evenly matched encounter, Kumamoto drew level from a corner in the 68th minute, with defender Osamu Henry Iyoha's header at the near post going in off the far upright.

Rei Hirakawa then came within inches of sending Kumamoto to J1 in stoppage time, but his powerful effort from inside the box hit the right post after his initial strike was blocked by Kyoto forward Peter Utaka's face.

"I'm relieved to have kept Kyoto's future hopes alive and be able to fight in J1 next year," said Sanga captain Matsuda, who also saluted the effort by his home prefecture club Roasso.

"It hurts me, but I think they had a fantastic season, and I'm proud as a Kumamoto native."

© Kyodo News