Forlan flops on debut as Cerezo lose to Sanfrecce
Uruguay striker Diego Forlan fell flat on his J-League debut as Cerezo Osaka lost 1-0 to defending champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima in Saturday's season opener.
Former Manchester United and Atletico Madrid forward Forlan sparked a fresh buzz of excitement in the increasingly dowdy J-League when he joined Cerezo from Brazilian side Internacional in January in an estimated $5.9 million deal.
But the 34-year-old was unable to make an immediate impact alongside Japan international Yoichiro Kakitani at a packed-out Nagai Stadium, leaving the field in the 81st minute after Tsukasa Shiotani had given Sanfrecce the lead 10 minutes earlier.
"It was Forlan and Kakitani's first time playing together, so you can't expect too much," said Cerezo manager Ranko Popovic.
"It's not only about Forlan and Kakitani. As a team we need to score goals."
Forlan had the best chance of an uneventful first half, shooting over the bar from distance after exchanging passes with Kakitani.
The Uruguayan then blasted a second-half free-kick into the wall after the referee had blown for a foul on Kakitani instead of allowing Ariajasuru Hasegawa to score from the advantage.
Shiotani volleyed home a Naoki Ishihara cross in the 71st minute to break the deadlock, before Forlan made way for substitute Kenyu Sugimoto.
"This is a great start for us," said Sanfrecce midfielder Toshihiro Aoyama, whose team are looking to win their third-straight league title.
"We weren't paying too much attention to keeping Forlan and Kakitani quiet, but we didn't let Cerezo play to their strengths and we kept our discipline well."
Elsewhere in the J-League, Sagan Tosu crushed newly promoted Tokushima Vortis 5-0, while Kashima Antlers also hit the goal trail with a 4-0 win over Ventforet Kofu.
Slovenian international Milivoje Novakovic scored the winner as Shimizu S-Pulse came from behind to beat Nagoya Grampus 3-2, and substitute Roger Gaucho scored in the 89th minute to give Albirex Niigata a 2-1 win over Vegalta Sendai.
Kashiwa Reysol and FC Tokyo drew 1-1, while in the day's late match, Tomoaki Makino struck in the 43rd minute to give Urawa Red Diamonds a 1-0 win over second-division champions Gamba Osaka.