BILBAO, Spain — Shunsuke Nakamura made a low-key debut in the Spanish first division Sunday as Espanyol went down 1-0 away to Athletic Bilbao in its season-opener.
Nakamura made little impact and was booked in the second half of his side’s first competitive match since the recent death of former captain Dani Jarque from a heart attack.
Nakamura snubbed Yokohama F. Marinos to live his Spanish “dream” and join Espanyol on a free transfer from Celtic, but the 31-year-old started his competitive debut by swinging at and missing the ball in the first minute.
A through pass set up a chance for the visitors after four minutes but Nakamura’s trademark set pieces were below par and a 12th-minute free kick sailed harmlessly over the bar.
With 12 minutes left, Nakamura’s aerial weakness was exposed in the buildup to Athletic’s winner, striker Gaizka Toquero scoring the game’s only goal to hand Bilbao a perfect start to the campaign.
Elsewhere, Takayuki Morimoto, who is set to win his first senior international cap after being called up for Japan’s upcoming friendlies against the Dutch national side and Ghana in the Netherlands, was kept on the bench as Catania was beaten 2-1 away to Parma in the Italian Serie A.