Japanese In Europe: Akihiro Ienaga Stars For Mallorca

It was a quiet week for Japan's Europe-based stars
Overall the past weekend wasn't one to remember for the Japanese in Europe. In the aftermath of the natural disaster that struck northern Japan some ten days ago, in many European stadiums support for the Japanese players was particularly warm; alas, performances and results were for the most disappointing.

Akihiro Ienaga and Daisuke Sakata were the only two players who saw their teams winning while actually being on the field.

Mallorca beat Real Zaragoza 1-0 and Ienaga had a strong game, in which he often outmuscled his opponents. His passes were sharp and clever but he still needs to move more when he is not in possession of the ball.

It might be too early to say so but Japan could finally have a player capable of succeeding in La Liga.

Bundesliga action for Japanese players started on Saturday when Tomoaki Makino hit the field in the 75th minute during FC Koln's 2-6 defeat to Hamburg. However, the winter signing from Sanfrecce Hiroshima didn’t have any influence on the game’s scoreline.

Down in the south, SC Freiburg’s Kisho Yano stood on the pitch for the final minutes of his team’s unlucky 2-1 defeat at home against Bayern Munich. The forward was introduced after Freiburg fell behind in the 88th minute but didn’t have any scoring opportunities.

Atsuto Uchida
played a full game but Champions League quarter-finalist Schalke again showed its mediocre Bundesliga-face, losing against a strong Leverkusen side 2-0. Uchida didn’t stand out in a largely dissapointing display by the whole team but he was not at fault for any goals either.

In Sunday’s late game Makoto Hasebe started for for the sixth consecutive time at Wolfsburg, back under Felix Magath's management. It was a dramatic bottom-of-the-table fight against Stuttgart, where Shinji Okazaki is currently a regular starter as an attacking midfielder. Hasebe had a rather poor game and was replaced at halftime.  

Meanwhile Okazaki, who switched to the right side midway through first half and back again to the left for the second half, posed some problems for the visitors with his tireless runs, although he is yet to score for his new club. Stuttgart equalized in dramatic fashion in injury-time and the match ended 1-1, keeping both teams stuck at the lower end of the table.

Shinji Kagawa
, who currently is still recovering from a broken metatarsal suffered at the Asian Cup, is expected to return from Japan to his club Borussia Dortmund this week to continue rehab. According to the Japanese sports newspaper Sports Hochi he could be back as early as mid-April.
  Akihiro Ienaga put in
  another good shift
  for Mallorca in La
  Liga and is fast
  looking like he could
  be a Japanese
  success story in

Over the border and into the Netherlands, Ryo Miyaichi had some good moments but he and Feyenoord could do little against Roda JC. The 3-0 was the first defeat for the young Japanese after his arrival.

Michihiro Yasuda
had his third assist in three games and his performance as an offensive winger was impressive. However, handicapped by a yellow card received in the 33rd minute, in the last part of the game "Michi" allowed Simon Poulsen to get the better of him and could not prevent Vitesse Arnheim from being beaten 3-1 by 4th-placed AZ Alkmaar.

VVV was lucky to manage a scorless draw at home against bottom-of-the-table Willelm II and is now twelve points away from safety. Maya Yoshida had a good game overall, while Robert Cullen was uninspired and was subbed out in the 73rd minute.

In neighboring Belgium, Eiji Kawashima kept his first clean sheet in eight games, as Lierse SK held 4th-place Club Brugge to a 0-0 draw at home. The Samurai Blue goalkeeper's team is now safe from relegation.

Moving on to Italy, in Udine, Takayuki Morimoto came on in the 24th minute for the injured Argentinian Schelotto but notwithstanding a good performance his Catania was defeated 2-0 by Udinese.

Yuto Nagatomo
sat the whole 90 minutes on the bench as Inter defeated Lecce 1-0. With defender Lucio suspended for the next round, there might be a chance for Nagatomo to be the first Japanese player ever to feature in a Milan derby on April 2.

In France another good performance for Daisuke Matsui but Grenoble lost 2-1 to Laval at home and now seem doomed to relegation to the third division. The Japanese international seemed slightly demotivated in the final phases of the game, as he is probably already thinking about his next transfer, surely coming at the end of this season.

In the Greek Superleague, Daisuke Sakata's Aris defeated Panserraikos 3-1. The former Yokohama F. Marinos striker came on the pitch in the 60th minute and notwithstanding a positive game, he missed a few good chances to score.

In the English Championship Yuki Abe led Leicester City out onto the pitch and a minute of silence was respected across the Walkers Stadium in the wake of the natural disaster that hit Japan.

Abe had a average game as the Foxes couldn't play their energetic and free-flowing football against a physical Portsmouth, who snatched an 1-0 win.

Abe was substituted half way through the second half and Leicester still hang outside the fringes of the play-offs.

Finally, Keisuke Honda's CSKA Moscow game at Krylya Sovetov was postponed due to the awful condition of the pitch, that was judged too dangerous for the players.

With contributions from Akira Araiwa (Germany), Wout Stouters (Holland), Clément Delestrade (France and Spain), Paul Kelly (England), and Artem Liubeznyi (Russia).

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