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Japanese Players in Europe

Shinji Kagawa celebrates his first goal for Manchester United

As the European leagues got underway this weekend, more and more Japanese players took to pitches for teams across the continent. Several players made debuts for their new teams, and notably, we had the third Japanese player to score in the English Premier League.

A week after impressing on his competitive debut for Manchester United, Shinji Kagawa became the third Japanese player to score in the English Premier League. In the 35th minute, Kagawa gave United a 2-1 lead in an eventual 3-2 win over Fulham. Playing as the No 10 behind Robin van Persie, Kagawa was again electric, at the heart of a mesmerizing 20 minute display in the first half from United that had Fulham on the ropes. His short passes and quick movement inspired the rest of the United attacking six to play at a dazzling pace that Fulham could hardly defend. There was a Dortmund-esque verve to their play. After a poor showing against Everton, Wayne Rooney was dropped, allowing Kagawa to play in his favored central position. He came on for Kagawa in the 68th but then suffered a terrible thigh gash and had to be carried off. He will be out for at least a month, which means Kagawa will likely continue playing as the No 10.

The goal itself was a tap-in, and that it wasn’t called off for offsides surprised everyone, including Kagawa. He follows Junichi Inamoto and Hidetoshi Nakata as Japanese goalscorers in the Premier League. Hopefully several others will follow him this season.

Hiroshi Kiyotake made his debut for FC Nurnberg, playing the entire 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Hamburg.

Takashi Inui also made his debut for Eintracht Frankfurt, starting in a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He was involved in Frankfurt’s equalizer, as his shot was only parried by Bernd Leno into the path of Stefan Aigner who finished well. Hajime Hosogai was an unused substitute for Leverkusen.

Takashi Usami came off the bench to make his debut for Hoffenheim in a 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach. He will look to break into the staring XI as the season progresses. Yuki Otsu was not included for Gladbach–more on a potential move away later.

Yuto Nagatomo played the entire 90 minutes as Inter beat newly-promoted Pescara 3-0. He also played the entire 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw with Romanian side FC Vaslui, which was enough for Inter to advance on. Similarly in Russia, Keisuke Honda played the entire 90 minutes in CSKA Moscow’s 3-0 win over Kryliya Sovetov. However, CSKA suffered major disappointment during the week, getting knocked out of the Europa League by Swedish side AIK.

In Holland, Maya Yoshida played the entire 90 minutes in a 4-2 loss to Ado Den Haag. More on him later. Robert Cullen came on in the 67th minute. For Vitesse, Michihiro Yasuda played the entire 90 minutes in a 2-0 win over Willem II. Mike Havenaar came on in the 54th minute.

In Europa League action, VFB Suttgart knocked out Dinamo Moscow 3-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw in Moscow. Gotoku Sakai and Shinji Okazaki both played the entire 90 minutes. Hannover 96 completed a 10-4 aggregate thumping of Slask Wroclaw with a 5-1 home win. Hiroki Sakai came on off the bench and set up the final goal with a delightful cross to Szabolcs Huszti.

Last but not least, English League Cup action. Tadanari Lee scored and played the entire 90 minutes in Southampton’s 4-1 win over Stevenage. It was a great way for him to mark his return from injury. Ryo Miyaichi came on for the last 10 minutes of Wigan’s 4-1 win over Nottingham Forest, which feature a couple great goals. Miyaichi got an assist for Wigan’s fourth, though Callum McManaman still had to beat a couple of players to score. An interesting stat from Miyaichi created a chance on average once every 32 minutes last season, 11th best in the Premier League.

Some transfer news: Maya Yoshida has completed a move to Southampton. He leaves one Japanese teammate (Robert Cullen) to join another (Tadanari Lee). The transfer fee was £2 million. Yoshida says that to play in the Premier League has been “one of my biggest dreams since I was a child.” Congrats to him on the move; that makes four Japanese players in the Premier League–let’s hope for more goals scored. Meanwhile, Yuki Otsu has been linked with a loan move to Celtic. It would be a good more for him; he’d play regularly and in the Champions League. Hiroshi Ibusuki has joined Belgian second division side KAS Eupen on loan from Sevilla.

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