Monday 13 February 2012

Okazaki and Kagawa on target as Usami ponders options

Borussia Dortmund attacking midfielder Shinji Kagawa was once again the pick of the Japanese internationals in action across Europe over the weekend, scoring the only goal as the reigning Bundesliga champions held onto top spot with victory at home to Bayer Leverkusen.

The 22-year-old collected the ball from teammate Jakub Błaszczykowski to cleverly burst past one defender and cut back inside a second, before hitting a low shot off balance that found its way inside the far post via the outstretched leg of Leverkusen ’keeper Bernd Leno.

The win keeps Dortmund two points clear of Bayern Munich at the summit.

Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen

Kagawa’s Samurai Blue teammate Shinji Okazaki was another with plenty to celebrate as his 32nd-minute header was the third in a 5-0 romp for VfB Stuttgart against struggling Hertha Berlin. The former Shimizu S-Pulse man broke free in the opposing penalty area to benefit from a perfectly-placed cross from Dutch full-back Khalid Boulahrouz.

Gotoku Sakai also made his full debut for Stuttgart after completing an 18-month loan agreement from Albirex Niigata over the winter.

VfB Stuttgart 5-0 Hertha Berlin

One player moving in the other direction, meanwhile, is former Japan forward Kisho Yano, whose return to Niigata was announced on Wednesday following a difficult 18-month period in Germany with Freiburg – who were beaten 3-2 by Makoto Hasebe’s VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga, Hajime Hosogai put in another strong performance for Augsburg as they drew 0-0 with Nürnberg yesterday afternoon, while Takashi Usami has been given a vote of confidence after seemingly being set to leave Bayern Munich just a few weeks ago.

The 19-year-old has spent much of the season in the reserves, with the Bavarians declining their option to turn his loan from Gamba Osaka into a permanent deal, but has now been called back onto the first team bench for the last two league matches with new reports suggesting that the club are in fact keen to extend his rental arrangement for a further year.

Bayern defender Jerome Boateng has added his support, telling “[Usami] is a great guy and a good player. It would really please me if he stays at Bayern.”

However, Usami himself has expressed reluctance at the idea of a lengthened loan. Speaking to the Munich-based tz newspaper, he said: “I am not really positive if this could work... I would like to join another club where I could play more regularly and grab myself a more important role.”

- Yuto Nagatomo came on as a late substitute but was unable to prevent a shock 1-0 home loss for Internazionale against Serie A’s bottom club Novara on Sunday. Takayuki Morimoto was not in the matchday squad for the visitors.
- Mike Havenaar played his first full 90 minutes for Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem in a 3-1 defeat away to Feyenoord.

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