Soccer

Muto opens Mainz account with two-goal salvo

Kyodo

Japan forward Yoshinori Muto scored his first two goals in Europe with a brace in Mainz’s 3-0 win over Hannover on Saturday.

Muto opened his Bundesliga account in the 15th minute, when he struck off the far post on his first touch after being put through down the left.

The 23-year-old striker made it 2-0 for the hosts just before the half-hour mark, nodding in a floating cross from point-blank range. He even had a hand in Mainz’s third, defending from the front to induce a mistake that led to Yunus Malli’s goal after 47 minutes.

“I couldn’t be happier,” said Muto, who was given a warm ovation from the home fans as he came off in the 87th minute.

“It’s a load off my shoulders. I want results, whether it’s goals or assists. The players who have gone abroad before me all say results mean everything so this certainly helps my confidence.

“I was able to relax after scoring the first goal. I want to keep playing to my strengths and score in bunches.”

Manager Martin Schmidt raved about Muto, who appears to be successfully filling the club’s void left behind by his international teammate Shinji Okazaki, now at Leicester City.

“He showed today why we signed him,” Schmidt said. “Right now, he is building the foundation for what should be a brilliant career in Europe.”

The former Chelsea target is heating up at the right time, with Japan in need of a big win against Cambodia in Thursday’s World Cup qualifier at Saitama to wash away the morbid East Asian Cup campaign earlier this month.

“I’m a little tired as I just had a game but this is something I have to get used to quickly as long as I’m playing overseas,” Muto said on Sunday upon his arrival at Tokyo’s Haneda airport.

“I haven’t been scoring for the national team. I plan on doing everything I can to help us to a win.”