Huntelaar believes and Ajax are in Cup final

Huntelaar believes and Ajax are in Cup final

One single Ajax player still believed in his team's chances at the end of the semi-final match of the Gatorade Cup against Roda JC; all others had lost faith in a happy ending. That wasn't strange, because Ajax had showed next to nothing in the ninety-two preceeding minutes. Roda JC were deservedly leading 1-0 and seemed on their way to 'De Kuip' in Rotterdam for the Cup final. Until Klaas Jan Huntelaar converted his belief in a successful night into a goal, 1-1. In the overtime, Roda JC were broken and Ajax won by a landslide: 4-1.

Roda JC's staff and reserves greeted Andres Oper as a hero when he was taken off after 83 minutes. The Estonian striker had given Roda the lead in the 61st minute when he took advantage of a enormous blunder by Hedwiges Maduro, picked of the pass intended for Maarten stekelenburg and put the ball in the Ajax goal. Roda's bench was already celebrating but it proved to be too early. With no more than a few seconds to play, Klaas Jan Huntelaar forced overtime with a bicycle kick that went beyond the reach of Roda's goalkeeper Kujovic. In the extra thirty minutes, Ajax were finally better than Roda.

Coach Danny Blind, faced with many injuries among his defenders, put Hedwiges Maduro in his lineup. The young Dutch international was not feeling completely fit after battling the flu, but was there for his team. That he of all players would produce a howler from which Roda scored, was sad. ,,He wasn't fit but I called on him anyway'', said Blind. ,,Therefore I am happy that it ended well.''

Ajax, where Hatem Trabelsi had also returned to the lineup, could not put their mark on this home match. Roda JC were tactically sound and although the visitors created little danger themselves, they were the better team in the Amsterdam ArenA. Even when veteran Tomás Galásek made his return after an hour, things changed very little. ,,We could not play the way we did until the Inter away match'', said Blind. ,,We weren't really into it and Roda were more eager than we were. We ran the risk of getting behind further.''

The only one who did not believe in that, was Klaas Jan Huntelaar. After many opportunistic attempts to reach the striker, the newest Ajax player did it himself in the third minute of stoppage time. From a seemingly impossible angle, he produced a bicycle kick that went in the far corner of the Roda goal. Roda were broken, Ajax were revived and played eagerly and freshly in the overtime. Substitutes Angelos Charisteas and Ryan Babel fulfilled important roles, in which Babel took care of the 2-1 and 3-1. Huntelaar himself deservedly put his signature under the match when he combined with Charisteas to make it 4-1.

Through the result, Ajax are sure of at least a place in the UEFA Cup. Soon-to-be national champions PSV will be the opponents in the Cup final, on 7 May in 'De Kuip' in Rotterdam.