Tokyo Verdy edged out JEF United Chiba 2-1 at home Sunday to clinch a place in the playoff final for promotion to the J-League first division.

First-half goals from Hikaru Nakahara and Koki Morita did the damage at Ajinomoto Stadium, booking Verdy a meeting with Shimizu S-Pulse in the Dec. 2 final at Tokyo's National Stadium.

Verdy, a dominant top-flight force in the early 90s, only need a draw to secure a return to J1 for the first time since 2008, having finished third overall in the second-tier standings this term.

Koki Morita (R) heads in Tokyo Verdy's second goal against JEF United Chiba during the first half of their playoff semifinal for promotion to the J-League top flight on Nov. 26, 2023, at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, western Tokyo. (Kyodo)

S-Pulse, who finished fourth, reached the final after a 0-0 draw at home to fifth-placed Montedio Yamagata in Saturday's other semifinal.

"We have lost twice to S-Pulse this season and we can't afford to lose to them again," Verdy manager Hiroshi Jofuku said. "They have got players that shouldn't be playing in J2 and it will be a big challenge."

Knowing only victory would be enough to keep their promotion hopes alive, Chiba, who took the final playoff spot after finishing sixth, made a fast start on a cold, grey afternoon in the capital and had a goal ruled out after just three minutes.

Hiroto Goya then missed a golden chance to put the visitors in front when he was denied from point-bank range by Verdy keeper Matheus following a cross from the right by Kazuki Tanaka.

Tokyo Verdy goalkeeper Matheus (L) blocks a shot from JEF United Chiba's Hiroto Goya (R) during the first half of the J-League second-division teams' promotion playoff semifinal on Nov. 26, 2023, at Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu, western Tokyo. (Kyodo)

"We didn't start the game well and they were much better than us but one save changes everything," said Matheus. "After that we scored two goals and I'm pretty glad."

That miss by Goya was punished on 34 minutes as Verdy took the lead, Nakahara drilling in a low shot from the edge of the box after some intricate build-up play.

Verdy all but put the game out of reach just before halftime, Morita taking advantage of slack marking to head home Kosuke Saito's cross.

Chiba managed to pull a goal back with 12 minutes left thanks to substitute Hiiro Komori's well-taken finish but despite a wave of late pressure, they were unable to make any further inroads.

"Results are everything and we are obviously very disappointed," Chiba manager Yoshiyuki Kobayashi said.

"Verdy have a lot of individual quality and are strong in defense and didn't let us play our game. We had chances in the first and second half but lacked the quality we needed to put them away.

Machida Zelvia and Jubilo Iwata took this year's two automatic promotion spots from J2.

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