Kagawa bags pair of goals in Europa League playoff match


Japan midfielder Shinji Kagawa opened his Borussia Dortmund account in style with a first-half brace as the German Bundesliga club thrashed Azerbaijan’s Garabagh Agdam 4-0 in the first leg of their Europa League playoff on Thursday night.

Kagawa calmed Dortmund’s early jitters with a wonder strike and completed the scoring with a 41st-minute header to put his side in prime position to qualify for the group stages.

In Russia, Keisuke Honda’s CSKA Moscow also enjoyed a 4-0 rout of Anorthosis Famagusta of Cyprus in their playoff, but the bleach-blonde World Cup star was forced to miss the match due to a sore left ankle.

Kagawa was disappointed at not getting on the scoresheet in Dortmund’s 3-0 win away to third-division side Wacker Burghausen in the German Cup last Saturday.

But his first competitive goal finally arrived in the 13th minute at Signal Inuda Park, the former Cerezo Osaka fan favorite letting fly with a blistering long-range effort to put the home side in front.

Lucas Barrios made it 2-0 on 20 minutes, and it got even better for the majority of a crowd of 48,000 nine minutes later when he grabbed his second of the game with a fine header to put Dortmund in total control.

Dortmund continued to ruthlessly expose the visitors and Kagawa, who traveled as a reserve with Japan’s squad at this summer’s World Cup, headed in Marcel Schmelzer’s cross from the left to round things off.

The 21-year-old thought he had completed his hat trick when he had the ball in the net after collecting a defense-splitting pass from Nuri Sahin, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside.

“I have been feeling good since preseason and hopefully that will continue,” said Kagawa, who was cheered off the pitch when he was substituted with 20 minutes to go.

“Now I must switch my attention to our opening league game (on Sunday at home to Bayer Leverkusen) and will give my best.”