Mainz – After 1. FSV Mainz 05 lost last season’s top scorer Shinji Okazaki over the summer, and then also succumbed to defeat on Matchday 1 against promoted side 1. FC Ingolstadt 04, the club’s fans could have been forgiven for thinking the 2015/16 season might be a bleak one.
Yet new signing Yoshinori Muto had other ideas and following his impressive display in Mainz’s 3-0 win at home Hannover 96 on Saturday, he has almost single-handedly breathed new life into their campaign on what was just his second outing in the starting XI.
At the double
The hosts began brightly and were rewarded for their efforts in the 15th minute when Muto struck his first ever Bundesliga goal, slotting a slide-rule finish into the bottom right corner to become the 16th Japanese player to score in Germany's top flight.
Not content with that, Muto was on target again a quarter of an hour later when he headed in from close range after Stefan Bell’s knock-back from a corner, grabbing a brace faster than any other Japanese player in Germany’s top flight. To round off a perfect afternoon, it was his harrying of Hannover defender Marcelo that led directly to Yunus Malli netting Mainz’s decisive third goal.
“Today I wanted to demonstrate what makes me such a strong player in terms of my speed and, of course, my movement off the ball,” Muto said afterwards, having experienced another first by singing the traditional ‘Humba’ song with the club’s supporters in the terraces come the final whistle. "I didn’t really understand what I was singing [laughs], but I’m assuming we were singing something about Mainz."
“The fans here are superb and I was really honoured to be able to get up in the stands and sing along,” he continued. “I hope to be able to join in with the signing again sometime soon, next time off by heart.” If Saturday’s display is anything to go by there is a good chance he will do. Aside from his goals, Muto’s all-round contribution was remarkable: he made more sprints than any of his team-mates (28), covered 10.76 kilometres and managed four shots on goal.
Head coach Martin Schmidt was understandably pleased with his No.9: “I see him perform like that on a daily basis. I am surprised, however, about how he’s come here and got involved, how he runs the play, how hard-working he is and how much ground he covers… and how many interceptions he makes in the opponents’ half to win possession. These are the things that set him apart."
“His speed and presence suit the lone striker’s role,” Schmidt continued. “But whether he’s running from inside out or outside in, his qualities and attributes make him a perfect fit for us.” Hannover can certainly attest to that, but Muto is eager for more: “The most important thing was to show off my strengths and I want to continue contributing to the side’s victories. That’s why I’m already looking forward to the next game.” FC Schalke 04, Mainz’s opponents on Matchday 4, would do well to take note.