Sports

Takuma Asano brace gives Bochum win at Hoffenheim


Japan forward Takuma Asano hit a brace on Saturday as Bochum edged past Hoffenheim 2-1 away in the German first division.

Asano took his season’s tally to three goals, and his first of the match saw him get on to a long ball from keeper Manuel Riemann on the left and cut inside before drilling in a fierce strike from 25 meters out just inside the near post.

David Raum leveled for the home side nine minutes after the break, curling into the top right corner from just inside the box, but Asano buried the winner five minutes later.

Keeper Riemann again set him up, quickly launching a counter with a ball to Asano, who outmuscled a defender to control just inside the opposition box. The speedster had a free run at goal and duly scored the winner, although home keeper Oliver Baumann got a touch.

Bochum ended their two-game losing streak to move up to 11th on 35 points, nine points above the relegation zone, while Hoffenheim sit sixth on 44 points.

Asano is looking to make his first World Cup appearance later this year in Qatar, and his knowledge of the Bundesliga could prove useful after Germany, along with Spain, were drawn together with Japan in Group E.

“It’s a hard group … I play in Germany, and it was a happy draw for me personally,” said the 27-year-old, who missed out on the 2018 World Cup despite helping Japan qualify.

“I don’t yet know if I can play in the World Cup. I first want to concentrate on Bochum,” he said.

Stuttgart captain Wataru Endo also welcomed the draw after his team drew 1-1 away to Arminia Bielefeld.

“I came here yearning to play in the Bundesliga, and having the chance to actually play against Germany is something I am really looking forward to personally,” he said.

Two yet-uncapped Japanese in the Bundesliga, Stuttgart defender Hiroki Ito and Bielefeld’s midfielder Masaya Okugawa were also excited at the prospect of facing Germany.

“I need to be picked first (by the national team) in order to even play. I want to go after it, of course,” said Ito, a 22-year-old who has earned a regular spot in his first Bundesliga season.

Okugawa’s eight league goals this term are the most among Japanese in Germany and could provide Japan manager Hajime Moriyasu with more attacking options.

“It’s a group with really strong opponents. The bottom line is I’ve been wanting to play there all along,” said the 25-year-old. “I’m training and playing in matches, picturing what I can do if given a chance.”

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