MONTPELLIER, France – Former Japan midfielder Nozomi Hiroyama became the first Japanese to play in the French League first division when he came on as a substitute in Montpellier’s 1-1 draw at home to Rennes in the season opener on Saturday.
The 26-year-old, who joined Montpellier on a one-year contract last month, was brought on in the second half and played a part in salvaging a late point for his side after Abdeslam Ouaddou had given the visitors a 25th-minute lead.
With only a minute of normal time remaining, Hiroyama’s pass into the box found Fode Mansare, who was impeded by Dominique Arribage and awarded a penalty.
Mansare dusted himself off to take the kick himself and squeezed the ball past visiting goalkeeper Petr Cech, who guessed right and got his fingertips to the ball but could not manage to keep it out.
Elsewhere, Japan striker Naohiro Takahara also came on as a second-half substitute but was unable to find the target as Hamburg SV was brushed aside 3-0 by Hannover 96 on the opening day of action in the German Bundesliga.
Despite starting and scoring in Hamburg’s recent 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in the German League Cup final, Takahara was relegated to the bench with Bernardo Romeo, back from a thigh injury, preferred in the starting lineup.
Hamburg’s balance improved with the introduction of Takahara and the former Jubilo Iwata star was unlucky not to earn a penalty after he was brought down in the box early in the second half.
Takahara also created a good chance under pressure for Romeo on 67 minutes but the Argentine, who wasted countless scoring opportunities, was unable to find the net and cancel out Jiri Stajner’s 11th-minute opener for the visitors.
Hannover weathered the early second-half storm before they doubled its lead through Thomas Brdaric on 76 minutes. Mohammadou Idrissou completed a deserved victory three minutes later.
“I didn’t score today but otherwise I thought I had a good game today,” Takahara said after the match.
“We lost because we didn’t take our chances but personally I feel in good form and hopefully that will continue and I’ll be able to turn opportunities into goals,” he added.
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