Shinji Kagawa scored his first international goal for six months as Japan beat New Zealand 4-2 in a pre-FIFA World Cup™ friendly.
A total of four goals in the first 17 minutes, including a brace from Mainz striker Shinji Okazaki, sealed victory for the Blue Samurai in their last international match before coach Alberto Zaccheroni selects his 23-strong squad in early May for the World Cup in Brazil. Leicester City striker Chris Wood scored twice to spare the All Whites' blushes.
Kagawa has only played in nine of Manchester United's 27 English Premier League matches this season under Moyes without scoring or assisting a goal. He was clipped down when he took a cross from new AC Milan signing Keisuke Honda and dribbled into the area in the seventh minute.
The 24-year-old attacking midfielder jumped for joy after sinking a shot from the penalty spot past keeper Glen Moss for Japan's second goal of the night.
"No matter if it was a penalty kick or not, I felt happy because a goal is a goal," Kagawa told reporters after the game before a sell-out crowd of 48,000 at the National Stadium. "It was on the spur of the moment," he said about his decision to cut into the area by dribbling. "My imagination went in the right direction."
It was Kagawa's first goal for his country since the 3-1 friendly win over Ghana at home in September last year. "We could do what we wanted to do in the first 30 minutes, leaving New Zealand watching us helplessly," Zaccheroni said. "But we slowed down and New Zealand came out attacking afterwards. They were a fine team."
Kagawa had set up Japan's first goal in the fourth minute when he floated a long ball towards the back of New Zealand's defence line. Okazaki beat Bill Tuiloma and flicked the ball past Moss in a sliding shot.
He did not go into details about his immediate future at Old Trafford as he has yet to convince David Moyes, who took over from Alex Ferguson at the start of the season. "When I go back to Manchester, tough battles will start," Kagawa said.
"I must aim to win all the battles ahead, including international matches," added the footballer, now in his second season with the Red Devils after helping Borussia Dortmund seal back-to-back Bundesliga titles.
In the 11th minute Masato Morishige headed in his first international goal, off a right free-kick from Honda. Honda also set up Okazaki's second goal with a back-heel pass. The Mainz frontman volleyed it in with his left foot in the 17th minute.
Wood pulled one back in the 39th minute for New Zealand, which failed to qualify for Brazil after losing to Mexico in an inter-continental play-off. Japan, grouped with higher-ranked Colombia, Ivory Coast and Greece in the World Cup, slowed down after leading 4-1 at half-time and substituting four players including Okazaki.
A minute after Kagawa was substituted in the 79th minute, Wood volleyed in his second goal to narrow the gap to 4-2. In one of Japan's last chances, Honda took a free-kick on 88 minutes but his 20-metre shot was punched away by Moss.
Honda has also struggled to impress after moving to Milan in January and has not scored in seven Serie A matches. Japan played without two Europe-based first-team regulars - Schalke defender Atsuto Uchida and Nuremberg midfielder Makoto Hasebe - due to injuries.