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Japanese Players In Europe

Takashi Inui celebrates with Sebastian Rode after scoring against Nurnberg.

This past week was another great one for Japanese footballers in Europe.

Takashi Inui got things started on Friday, when he scored in Eintracht’s 2-1 win away at Nurnberg. His goal in the 60th minute, cutting in from the left and lashing a low shot past Raphael Schafer, was the eventual match winner. Then in the midweek match at home to Borussia Dortmund, he starred as Frankfurt continued their great start and got a 0-0 to the two-time defending champions. Eintracht entered the half trailing 2-0 but Inui helped start the comeback, assisting Stefan Aigner’s goal in the 49th minute. He then scored the equalizer in the 51st with a header. It was his third goal in as many Bundesliga matches. Dortmund retook the lead through Mario Gotze in the 54th minute, but Anderson Bamba equalized in 73rd to earn a point for Eintracht.

Frankfurt’s great start and Inui’s performances have been getting a lot of attention recently. Before drawing with Dortmund, Frankfurt’s four consecutive league wins were a record for a newly-promoted team. As for Inui, in his recent column for The Guardian Rafa Honigstein gave him the tongue-in-cheek nickname “the new, new Kagawa.” He’s certainly been great to watch and his own and Frankfurt’s success have been an exciting story so far in the Bundesliga.

In that 2-1 loss to Frankfurt, Hiroshi Kiyotake put in another excellent performance for Nurnberg. He collected yet another set-piece assist, this time for Sebastian Polter, and it was his third straight match in which he had assisted or scored (he assisted in all of them). In the midweek game, Nurnberg lost 4-1 away to Hannover. Kiyotake maintained his first team place.

Takashi Usami retained his starting spot as Hoffenheim beat Hannover 3-1 over the weekend, their first points of the season. Then in the midweek, Hoffenheim continued their fine play and beat Stuttgart 3-0 away. Usami opened the scoring in the 5th minute with an excellent dribble to get away from a defender before applying a composed finish when one-on-one with the keeper.

Stuttgart came back from 2-0 down to draw with Werder Bremen 2-2 away. Both Shinji Okazaki and Gotoku Sakai started. However, in the midweek against Hoffenheim they were unable to pick up where they left off and were humbled by Usami and co. Okazaki and Sakai both started that match as well.

Hiroki Sakai came on in the 74th minute for Manuel Schmiedebach in Hannover’s 3-1 loss to Hoffenheim over the weekend. He did not feature in their 4-1 mauling of Nurnberg.

Hajime Hosogai played the entire match at rightback in last week’s 0-0 home draw to Metalist Kharkiv in the Europa League. He did not feature in the weekend league match against Borussia Monchengladbach, a 1-1 draw at home. In the midweek 3-1 away win at his old club Augsburg, he came on in the 38th minute for Stefan Reinartz who was forced off with an injury.

Shinji Kagawa returned to the starting lineup for Manchester United in an emotionally charged match away to Liverpool. While United did win 2-1, they were vastly outplayed by Liverpool, even when the hosts were reduced to 10 men before halftime. Kagawa and the United midfield were reduced to spectators as Joe Allen, Steven Gerrard, and Jonjo Shelvey passed around them with ease. Kagawa did record an assist, as his chested pass to Rafael was followed by an exquisite curled shot that went in off the post. But it was another difficult game for himself as he comes to grips with the muscular side of life in the Premier League. He was substituted for Chicharito in the 81st minute.

Ryo Miyaichi came on as a substitute for Gary Caldwell in 77th minute as Wigan sought to get back in the game against Fulham this past weekend. They did manage to pull one back in stoppage time, but still fell 2-1 at home. During the week Miyaichi played the entire match as Wigan beat West Ham 4-1 away to advance in the “Capital One” cup.

Maya Yoshida was in the starting lineup as Southampton earned their first points of the season, a 4-1 win at home to Aston Villa. After going behind 1-0, Southampton came roaring back to score four times in the second half. During the week, they beat Sheffield Wednesday 2-0 at home. Yoshida played the entire game.

Over the weekend, CSKA Moscow beat Volga 3-2 away. Keisuke Honda set up the Ahmed Musa’s winner in the 87th minute. It was a case of returning the favor, as Musa had set up both of Honda’s goals the week before against Alaniya. He was then substituted off two minutes later.

Last week, Yuto Nagatomo scored in the second minute of stoppage time to earn Inter a 2-2 home draw with Rubin Kazan in the Champions League. It was fine strike from Nagatomo as he saved Inter from a terrible result to start their European campaign. He played at leftback in the game. During the weekend, the San Siro curse struck again as Inter lost 2-0 at home to Siena. Nagatomo played the entire match at rightback. Inter have lost or drawn every match at home so far this season. During the week, they beat Chievo 2-0 away and Nagatomo played in right midfield. His deflected shot was put in by Alvaro Pereira for Inter’s first.

Mike Havenaar came on for the second half this past weekend in Vitesse’s 1-1 home draw to Heracles. He and Michihiro Yasuda played the entire 90 minutes of Vitesse’s 3-0 cup win away at Gemert during the week.

Hiroshi Ibusuki scored in a second consecutive game for AS Eupen. They lost 2-1 to Brussels. I did not watch this game.

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