YOKOHAMA — Shunsuke Nakamura enjoyed a winning return to the J. League as Yokohama F. Marinos cruised past Shonan Bellmare 3-0 on Saturday.
Nakamura’s transfer to the club where he began his career did not go through in time for last weekend’s season-opening defeat to FC Tokyo, but there was nothing stopping the former Reggina, Celtic and Espanyol star from pulling on the Yokohama colors for the first time in almost eight years at Nissan Stadium.
Nakamura got his second coming off to a promising start with a 22nd-minute corner that defender Yuzo Kurihara headed home for the opener, before Kazuma Watanabe doubled Yokohama’s advantage shortly after the hour mark.
Nakamura’s lack of match fitness eventually began to show as Kenta Kano replaced him in the 84th minute, and the substitute set the seal on the win with a fierce drive in the dying stages.
“I knew my first game would be difficult, so I’m just happy that we won,” Nakamura said. “I knew that any small mistakes I made would be magnified. I misplaced a few passes and that’s something that needs to be corrected, and we also have to work on how we link up as a team. But for the time being I’m happy we got the win today.
“I had to play for the national team just after coming back to Japan so I didn’t have much time to prepare. I’m still lacking in sharpness, so I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me.”
Nakamura almost gave the 32,228 crowd what it came for when Koji Yamase picked him out in front of the goal in the sixth minute, but the 31-year-old’s left-foot strike flew just wide of the post. Marinos would not have to wait long for their new signing’s pinpoint delivery to bear fruit, however, as defender Kurihara rose highest to head his corner firmly past Yosuke Nozawa for Yokohama’s first of the afternoon.
Nakamura stung the goalkeeper’s palms with a free kick move soon after, but Bellmare would live to regret Akihiro Sakata’s miss in first-half injury time as Marinos stretched their lead after the break.
Nozawa could only parry a Yamase shot as far as Watanabe, and the striker reacted quickest to bludgeon the ball over the line.
Nakamura’s last opportunity to get on the scoresheet slipped away with a tame shot after Shingo Hyodo had hit the post in the 79th minute, but Kano showed him how it was done with a clinical strike from distance that left Nozawa no chance.
“Maybe we should have scored two or three more today, but while it’s nice to enjoy your football it’s much better when you’re winning,” said Marinos manager Kazushi Kimura. “Shunsuke is not at his best yet but he worked well today. I wanted to take him off earlier but I wanted to win the game more.
“He brought a change of rhythm to the team and we were much more effective today. His corner brought us a goal, and I’m sure that as he improves the team will improve with him.”
Elsewhere in the J. League, a last-minute winner from North Korean striker Chong Tese gave Kawasaki Frontale a 3-2 win over big-spending Nagoya Grampus, but top spot in the table went to promoted Vegalta Sendai after last season’s second-division champion beat Omiya Ardija 3-1.
National team striker Shinji Okazaki was on target as Shimizu S-Pulse trounced Montedio Yamagata 3-0, while Albirex Niigata and Jubilo Iwata drew 1-1 in the day’s other game.
Honda nets winner
MOSCOW (Kyodo) Midfielder Keisuke Honda scored a late winner in his debut for CSKA Moscow in a 1-0 home victory against Amkar Perm in the season opener of the Russian Premier League on Friday.
Honda, 23, struck in the 90th minute to seal the victory for CSKA, who he joined on a four-year contract from Dutch first-division club VVV Venlo in December 2009.
“I always get nervous before a season-opening match,” said Honda. “The first 20 minutes were tough but the win is a confidence boost for the team.”