Soccer

Okazaki makes winning start on Premier League debut with Leicester

Kyodo

Japan striker Shinji Okazaki got off to a winning start on his Premier League debut with Leicester City on Saturday, but admitted his frustration at not being able to get his name on the scoresheet in a 4-2 defeat of Sunderland.

Okazaki produced an energetic performance but was guilty of missed opportunities either side of the break after starting alongside England forward James Vardy.

Vardy headed Leicester in front on 11 minutes and threatened again when he set up Okazaki, who couldn’t get a clean connection.

A double from Riyad Mahrez put the Foxes 3-0 up at the break and although Jermain Defoe pulled one back for the Black Cats just after the hour mark, City’s three-goal cushion was restored just five minutes later thanks to Marc Albrighton.

Sunderland rallied and Steven Fletcher’s header halved Leicester’s advantage with 20 minutes left before Okazaki was denied a debut goal by Younes Kaboul’s block in the last meaningful action of the game.

“I was only able to do half of the things I wanted to do,” said Okazaki, the only summer signing to start the match for Claudio Ranieri’s side.

“I really wanted to finish those two chances I had. If you play well and don’t score, it means nothing. It is the forwards that get dropped first when the team stops winning.”

Okazaki, who joined Leicester in June on a four-year deal after two strong seasons with Mainz, was not entirely downbeat though, while Ranieri said he was pleased with the striker’s performance.

“The best thing is that I played today and we won and that is something to build on,” said Okazaki. “I want to see how well I can make the grade when I give it my best and little by little add something extra to my game. I am happy I was able to take the first step in doing that today.”

Ranieri said, “It was a very good start and I am very happy with my players in the first match, which is so important in front of our fans. I told my players to be the warriors for them.”

“The performance was outstanding from the beginning. Okazaki played very well but I don’t like to just say Okazaki played well because the all the team played very well.”