East Asia Japan

Machida and Nagoya Stunned by University Teams as Emperor’s Cup Rolls Around

Wednesday saw the second round of the 2024 Emperor’s Cup being played out, with clubs from the J.League 1 and J.League 2 joining the fray in Japan’s annually-contested domestic cup competition. And already there were several shock results – J1 surprise packages and current league leaders Machida Zelvia and last season’s 6th placed finishers Nagoya Grampus were knocked out by university teams from the University of Tsukuba and Japan Soccer College respectively, while several other favorites were made to work hard for their third round tickets.

All 20 J2 teams and 19 out of the 20 J1 contestants took part in Wednesday’s second round matches, joining the 12 J.League 3 teams, 5 Japan Football League teams, 7 teams from the regional leagues and prefectural league team Mitsubishi Nagasaki, the lowest-ranked team remaining in the competition. The only exception were Urawa Red Diamonds, who were barred from this year’s Emperor’s Cup due to crowd trouble in last year’s fourth round defeat at the hands of Nagoya.

Under the tutelage of former high school PE teacher Go Kuroda, Machida has been turning heads throughout the current J1 season, with the newly-promoted side sitting first in the league table, neck-and-neck with perennial giants Kashima Antlers who are currently second. Machida’s performance this season was made more impressive by the fact that this was their debut campaign as a J1 team, and they were playing in the J3 as recently as 2015.

Hosting a University of Tsukuba side who had knocked out fellow university outfit Meiji University 1-0 in the second round, Kuroda fielded a second-string side that is still above their opponents in terms of quality, which included first-teamers Junya Suzuki, Kazuki Fujimoto, and Australia international Mitchell Duke.

Things initially went according to scenario when Takuya Yasui gave the Machida fans flocking the Machida GION Stadium something to cheer for with his 22nd minute goal, however the University of Tsukuba students soldiered on and they managed to deny Machida their third round ticket in the last minute as Kotaro Uchino slammed home the equalizer in the first minute of injury time.

Uchino’s equalizer was made more impressive by the fact that at that point Machida had thrown in more first-teamers in the form of South Korean attacker Na Sang-ho, vice-captain Keiya Sento, and young striker Shunta Araki in an attempt to see the game off.

No further goals were scored during extra time and it was the students of the University of Tsukuba that kept their cool during the ensuing penalty shootout, with their goalkeeper Ryusei Sato performing superbly as the university students knock out J1 leaders Machida 4-2 on penalties.

Meanwhile at the Toyota Stadium in Nagoya, Grampus head coach Kenta Hasegawa fielded a young and inexperienced side as Niigata-based Japan Soccer College came to visit. Kenta had hoped that the fringe players could get some valuable minutes in the cup, with starting striker Ken Masui, starting defender Kennedy Egbus Mikuni, and substitutes Tsukasa Morishima and Ha Chang-rae the only recognizable first-teamers in Nagoya’s squad.

However, despite being the favorites on paper, Nagoya were stunned after Naoki Uemoto gave Japan Soccer College the lead in the 51st minute. The two-time Emperor’s Cup winners were unable to recover from this setback, thus allowing Japan Soccer College to go home with a J1 scalp to their name.

“It was a comprehensive defeat,” said Kenta, as quoted from Kyodo and Mainichi, “It really brought home how hard the Emperor’s Cup is. Our preparation was lacking.”

While Machida and Nagoya were the notable exits from the second round, several other J1 and J2 teams had to work hard to avoid their fate in their own matches.

J1 side Albirex Niigata conceded a last-minute equalizer to J3 outfit Giravanz Kitakyushu that saw them play out a thrilling 4-4 draw, with Niigata finally ending their opponents’ resistance through a penalty shootout.

Another J1-J3 tie saw AFC Champions League runners-up Yokohama F. Marinos thanking Kenta Inoue, as his equalizer deep in injury time prevented Harry Kewell’s men from a shock defeat at the hands of FC Gifu. An eventful final ten minutes of the match saw Yokohama’s Asahi Uenaka score what seems to be the late winner in the 81st minute, only for Gifu to strike back through Takayuki Arakaki (83rd minute) and Yuya Taguchi (89th minute), giving Yokohama quite the scare before Inoue’s late equalizer. This gave Yokohama a lifeline and eventually they managed to eliminate Gifu 5-4 through a tense penalty shootout.

J2’s Yokohama FC had to work through extra-time to eliminate J3 side Vanraure Hachinohe 2-1, while there were also narrow 2-1 victories for J1 giants Kashima over J3 side Nara Club, J1’s Sagan Tosu over Japan Football League leaders Kochi United, and J2 side JEF United Chiba over the students of Chukyo University.

And while the shock exits of Machida and Nagoya will no doubt decorate the headlines, another shock exit saw J1 outfit Jubilo Iwata being beaten 2-1 at home by J3 side Tegevajaro Miyazaki thanks to a last-minute winner from Ren Inoue, with Kyushu-based Miyazaki coming behind from 1-0 down to claim their third round ticket.

There were also plenty of comprehensive results in Wednesday’s second round matches, with J1 side Sanfrecce Hiroshima crushing regional league side Baleine Shimonoseki 11-2, the aforementioned Mitsubishi Nagasaki being beaten 9-0 by J2 leaders Shimizu S-Pulse, J1’s Tokyo Verdy claiming a comprehensive 5-0 win over J3’s Nagano Parceiro, and regional league outfit Fukuyama City suffering a crushing 8-0 loss away at J1 side Avispa Fukuoka.