Matsui, Uchida and Nagatomo all turn in impressive displays as Goal.com's Cesare Polenghi brings you the 'Japanese in Europe' wrap.While football came to a halt in Japan as a consequence of the devastating earthquake that struck last Friday, Japan's Europe-based footballers experienced a weekend of mixed fortunes.
T-shirts wishing the best to compatriots back home were worn by almost every Japanese player during warm-ups and after games, as they received cheers from team-mates and rivals alike.
Michihiro Yasuda was picked as man-of-the-match for the second week in a row by Goal.com readers and delivered the assist that gave Vitesse a 1-1 draw with Heerenveen.
The former Gamba Osaka full-back had another convincing game and at a time when major European clubs seem to be short on good defenders, he might be attracting attention.
Ryo Miyaichi's performance with Feyenoord was less exciting than what we have become accustomed to but his team nonetheless won again, beating NAC Breda 2-1.
Meanwhile, Robert Cullen and Maya Yoshida played well as VVV Venlo lost 2-1 after putting up a good fight against Dutch champions FC Twente. Cullen played 86 minutes and was the only one of the four Japanese in the Netherlands not to play a full game.
Across the border and into Germany, FC Koln started the Bundesliga weekend with a 4-0 romping of high-flying Hannover on Friday evening. Tomoaki Makino came on in the 87th minute and was on the pitch for Koln's final goal; a fourth win in six matches steers the Geissboecke further toward the safety zone.
On Saturday, Schalke's right-back Atsuto Uchida had a fine game against Eintracht Frankfurt. Throughout the match he posed a constant threat through his crosses and in 58th minute he even found himself free in front of the goal, only to be denied by the 'keeper. Schalke beat the visiting Frankfurt 2-1.
Makoto Hasebe also got another full match under his belt when his Wolfsburg faced Nurnberg, though they lost 2-1 in front of their own fans. While he had a solid defensive game, his play was highlighted by a nice through ball shortly after the break, after which his team played well.
The Woelfe went on to concede an injury-time goal against the run of play and now find themselves in 17th spot.
Kisho Yano didn't see any playing time as he sat on Freiburg's bench. His team lost 2-1 in an away game against Kaiserslautern, their third consecutive defeat.
In the last match of the 26th Bundesliga round, Shinji Okazaki started for Stuttgart away against St. Pauli. Fielded again as an attacking midfielder on the left flank, he looked lively and had some good attempts on goal.
Okazaki was replaced in the 83rd minute but his team clinched a 2-1 win. Stuttgart are out of the drop zone for the first time since mid-November.
|STAR OF THE WEEK
| For the second week
in a row Michihiro
Yasuda was voted
readers, after he
starred for Vitesse.
The former Gamba
could well start
if his form continues
- assuming he
In Russia, mystery surrounded Keisuke Honda's absence against Amkar. The Japan international wasn't even on the bench, sparking another wave of rumors about an ongoing conflict with manager Leonid Slutsky.
While Honda might actually be slightly injured, many pointed to how he had quite an animated discussion with his manager after being subbed in the 70th minute of the midweek UEFA Champions League game against Porto.
The only Japanese goal of the week in Europe came from veteran Daisuke Matsui, who enjoyed a full game in Ligue 2. Another good performance from the midfielder after his return to Grenoble but unfortunately his team couldn't defend their lead against Vannes and after the 1-1 draw still occupy last spot in the league.
Across the English Channel, in midweek Yuki Abe at Leicester City had a terribly lacklustre game in a poor team performance, resulting in the first home loss of the season for the Foxes, at the hands of Norwich City (3-2).
Things went better in last Saturday's 3-0 win against Scunthorpe when Abe looked fit but once again was unlucky not to score. Leicester is still on the fringes of the play-off zone.
Akihiro Ienaga finally started his first game in La Liga, turning in a good performance. In the first half the former Cerezo Osaka player moved well, his passing was excellent and he also had a good shot saved, before squandering a one-on-one with the keeper that could have given the lead to Mallorca.
In the second half he was substituted in the 54th minute, as Mallorca ended up tying 1-1 at Levante.
Belgium-based Eiji Kawashima was beaten once but he also made some very good saves as Lierse were held 1-1 at Lokeren, playing more than 40 minutes with ten men. Lierse is still 15th and for the moment in the relegation zone on goal difference.
Finally, in Italy Takayuki Morimoto saw more time on the bench and Yuto Nagatomo, who played only a few hours after disaster had struck in Japan, still managed to turn in an impressive perofmrnace. Samuel Eto'o scored in the 18th minute and immediately pointed towards Nagatomo before running over to hug him. Inter however, could only manage a 1-1 draw at Brescia.
With contributions from Wout Stouters (Holland), Akira Araiwa (Germany), Paul Kelly (England), Clément Delestrade (France), and Artem Liubeznyi (Russia).
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