Sanfrecce Hiroshima retained their J.League title with a 2-0 win over Kashima Antlers as league leaders Yokohama Marinos blew their chance on the final day of the season on Saturday. Naoki Ishihara scored either side of half-time to seal Sanfrecce's win away to Antlers, who began the day with a slim mathematical chance of claiming the title but had striker Yuya Osako sent off in first-half injury time.
Marinos would have won their first championship since 2004 with a win away to Kawasaki Frontale regardless of Sanfrecce's result, but a goal in the 54th minute from Renato gave Frontale a 1-0 victory.
"Our chances of winning the title weren't looking good but we kept believing that a miracle could happen," said Sanfrecce midfielder Kazuyuki Morisaki.
Marinos held a four-point lead with two games of the season remaining, but missed their first chance to clinch the title with a 2-0 home loss to Albirex Niigata the previous weekend.
"This is so disappointing," said Marinos manager Yasuhiro Higuchi. "We were in a good position to win the title but it escaped our grasp."
Sanfrecce won the title for the second time having claimed their first-ever silverware last season, and became the first team to retain the J.League championship since Antlers in 2009. Frontale jumped two places to finish the season in third place, earning themselves a place in next season's AFC Champions League alongside Sanfrecce, Marinos and the winner of the Emperor's Cup final, to be held on 1 January.
Frontale striker Yoshito Okubo claimed the golden boot as top scorer on 26 goals, the highest number since the same tally was reached in 2006. Cerezo Osaka beat Urawa Red Diamonds 5-2 to finish in fourth place, pushing Urawa into sixth one place below Antlers.
Former Yugoslavia playmaker Dragan Stojkovic ended his six-year spell in charge of Nagoya Grampus, where he also spent seven years as a player, with a 2-0 loss to Albirex. Shonan Bellmare, Jubilo Iwata and Oita Trinita had already been relegated from the first division.
Second division champions Gamba Osaka will take their place in the top flight along with Vissel Kobe and the winner of Sunday's play-off between Kyoto Sanga and Tokushima Vortis.