• Kyodo


Japan striker Atsushi Yanagisawa made his debut in Italy’s top flight on Saturday when he came on in the second half of newly promoted Sampdoria’s 2-2 draw at Reggina on the opening day of the season in the Serie A.

News photoShunsuke Nakamura of Reggina competes for the ball against Sampdoria.

Yanagisawa became the fifth Japanese player to appear in the Serie A when he replaced the ineffective Cristiano Doni on 57 minutes and almost made a fairytale start as his side staged a remarkable fightback to earn a share of the spoils.

Trailing 2-0 after goals from Reggina striker Francesco Cozza and David Di Michele, Sampdoria started its comeback as Fabio Bazzani nodded home a cross from Francesco Flachi in the 64th minute.

Two minutes later Yanagisawa went close to grabbing an equalizer, only to see his powerful angled left-foot drive turned on to the far post by Reggina goalkeeper Emanuele Belardi.

Sloppy defending allowed Sampdoria to grab the equalizer with a free header on 73 minutes, former Reggina defender Aimo Diana stealing in completely unmarked to meet a Sergio Volpi free-kick.

Reggina brought on Yanagisawa’s national teammate Shunsuke Nakamura for Di Michele eight minutes from time but the substitution made little impact as the visitors held on for the draw.

“I came into the match really fired up. We were up against it (at 2-0 down) when my chance came around and I thought we did well to get a point,” Yanagisawa said after the match.

Yanagisawa is the third Japanese player currently plying his trade in Italy along with Nakamura and Parma’s Hidetoshi Nakata.

Former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura was the first to play in Italy with Genoa in 1994 while midfielder Hiroshi Nanami had a brief spell with Venezia in 1999.

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