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Japanese Players In Europe

Hiroshi Kiyotake celebrates scoring the winner against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Japanese players had a great weekend in Europe, especially in Germany where three players scored their first Bundesliga goals.

FC Nurnberg’s 3-2 away win at Borussia Monchengladbach might end up being remembered by viewers as the game in which Hiroshi Kiyotake showed Germany exactly how good he is. Kiyotake put in a masterful performance against last year’s fourth place team, setting up two and scoring the winner (his first Bundesliga goal). In the 17th minute, he delivered an excellent freekick from the left that was headed in by Timm Klose. Then in the 25th minute, it was a corner kick that was headed in by Timmy Simons for a 2-0 lead. Monchengladbach fought back to equalize, led on by the impressive Patrick Herrmann. But Kiyotake ensured that Nurnberg got all three points and continued their excellent start to the season, scoring the winner in the 55th after a determined run and an outstanding right-foot finish from outside the box. The goal came just two minutes after Granit Xhaka had equalized for Monchengladbach.

In addition to the assists and goal, Kiyotake was outstanding throughout, playing small passes and leading the counterattack as Monchengladbach controlled possession. He was constantly on the move, always providing an option for teammates to pass to. The Monchengladbach defenders found him hard to defend, as he kept the ball with his control and agility. Nurnberg fans are surely excited about their new number 13 and what the team can achieve this season. They are in 6th place and undefeated through three rounds.

Eintracht Frankfurt are off to an even better start, perfect through their first three matches. They beat Hamburg 3-2 at home this weekend, and Takashi Inui opened the scoring in the 13th minute with his first Bundesliga goal. After getting the ball from a defensive mix-up, Inui glided through two defenders with a quick feint and curled in past Rene Adler. The goal looked like one that Luka Modric would score, a player that Inui is similar in style to. Like Kiyotake, Inui played well throughout. He was substituted in the 79th minute. Frankfurt are in second place on goal difference, behind Bayern. On the other hand, Hamburg look like they are in real trouble this season and could end up being relegated, something they narrowly avoided last season.

One place below Hamburg, in last on goal difference, is Hoffenheim. This weekend they lost 5-3 away at SC Freiburg in an entertaining match. Takashi Usami was given a starting place and scored a fantastic goal, his first in the Bundesliga. After taking the lead in the 2nd minute, they were behind 2-1 by the 27th. They equalized in the 57th but were pegged back again in the 68th. Usami equalized in the 76th minute with an unstoppable shot, but Freiburg scored twice in the final ten minutes to send Hoffenheim to their fourth straight loss in all competitions. Max Kruse was the standout player for Freiburg. In his first start of the season, Usami played well in addition to scoring his outstanding goal in what was a difficult match. It was an encouraging performance from Hoffenhim, though that won’t ease the pressure on manager Markus Babbel. They will try to get their first points at home against Hannover this weekend.

Keisuke Honda scored both goals in a 2-0 home win over FC Alaniya. For the first, he passed to Ahmed Musa who drew four defenders before passing back to Honda on the edge of the box. Wide open, Honda rifled into goal. For the second, Musa again found Honda, this time with a left side cross which Honda put in first time.

Mike Havenaar scored and set up another, leading Vitesse to a 3-0 win over Groningen. The goal was his first of the season. After struggling in the first half, Vitesse threw on Mike to energize the attack. The move paid huge dividends, with Mike opening the scoring in the 62nd before setting up Tomas Kalas for the second. He headed in a Patrick van Aanholt cross for his goal and led a two on one break before passing to Kalas to set up the second. His presence gave the Vitesse forward line a focal point through which to attack. It was Vitesse’s fifth straight win in all competitions and they remain unbeaten in the Eredivisie. They are in second on 13th points, behind Twente who remain perfect.

Stuttgart played out a goalless at home to Fortuna Dusseldorf. Shinji Okazaki came off the bench for Tamas Hajnal in the 86th. Gotoku Sakai was not included in the squad.

Shinji Kagawa was an unused substitute in Manchester United’s 4-0 win over Wigan. He was rested as he recovered from an injury that kept him out of Japan’s 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Iraq last week. Ryo Miyaichi was also an unused substitute, for Wigan.

Maya Yoshida was given a rough introduction to the Premier League in Southampton’s 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates. Yoshida was not in the starting lineup but was brought on in the 28th after Jos Hooiveld, who had already scored an own-goal, was forced off through injury. He couldn’t prevent the second, a curling freekick from Lukas Podolski, but he was taken to the cleaners by Gervinho for the third. Yoshida was completely fooled by Gervinho’s stop and start run, but wasn’t helped by Daniel Fox who didn’t seem to be at all interested in covering the space behind. Gervinho went through on goal and beat Kelvin Davis at this near post.

Yuto Nagatomo started and played the full 90 minutes of Inter’s 2-0 away win at Torino.

Hiroshi Ibusuki scored for AS Eupen in a 2-2 home draw with CS Vise, a Belgian 2nd Division match that I did not watch.

In other news, Japan beat Iraq 1-0 in World Cup qualifying last week. Ryoichi Maeda scored the only goal in the 25th minute after great work by Okazaki. Japan dominated the game but couldn’t increase their lead. However, Iraq hardly had the ball and were didn’t really threaten. It was a comfortable win for Japan that confirmed the team’s need for a few more finishers.

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