J-League title challengers Gamba Osaka and promotion candidates Montedio Yamagata will meet in the 94th Emperor’s Cup final after winning their respective semi-finals on Wednesday night.
Montedio, who have qualified for this year’s Promotion Playoff by finishing sixth in the second division, narrowly edged J2 rivals JEF United Chiba 3-2 in front of 2,221 fans who made their way the neutral Yanmar Stadium Nagai in Osaka.
Masato Yamazaki’s second-minute goal put Montedio ahead early. Akira Takeuchi’s 23rd-minute equalizer was rebutted by Kim Byeom-yong just 10 minutes later, and Tatsuya Yazawa’s 54th-minute goal for JEF could only keep them even until Gamba loanee Shota Kawanishi assisted Takumi Yamada’s 71st-minute game-winner.
At the same time in Tokyo’s Ajinomoto Stadium, Gamba controlled the majority of proceedings against Shimizu S-Pulse in a well-deserved 5-2 win.
S-Pulse had managed to claw back from a 2-0 deficit with two goals in four minutes by Sho Kagami and Yoshiaki Takami, but Brazilian forward Patric set up a brace for former Bayern Munich flop Takashi Usami whilst also scoring a brace for himself before his 71st minute substitution. Lins rounded out the performance with Gamba’s fifth goal in the 85th minute.
While the Emperor’s Cup final traditionally takes place on January 1, this year sees the decider played nearly three weeks earlier on December 13 due to the upcoming Asian Cup. Additionally, reconstruction of the National Stadium has caused the match to be moved to Yokohama’s Nissan Stadium, which also hosted the 2002 World Cup final.
The winner of the Emperor’s Cup is expected to earn a direct berth to the 2015 AFC Champions League; J1 license holders Montedio are eligible to participate in the continental tournament regardless of whether or not they earn promotion to the top flight. In order to do so they must defeat Jubilo Iwata on Sunday, then face JEF in what could be a thrilling revenge match at Ajinomoto Stadium on December 7.
Gamba, for their part, have already won the 2014 J-League Yamazaki Nabisco Cup and are just two points behind J1 leaders Urawa Reds. Should they finish the season in third place or higher in addition to winning the Emperor’s Cup, the J1’s fourth-placed side would qualify for the ACL.