He scored three matches in a row for the Dutch national team and in Ajax's eighth league match, Friday against FC Volendam, Rafael van der Vaart redeemed mainly himself by scoring twice for Ajax. In doing so, the captain helped his team beating the visitors 5-1.
Coach Ronald Koeman said last week that he was not worried about Rafael van der Vaart. The midfielder's scoring drought did not matter. And he was right. But the coach must have enjoyed the fact that his young captain was on target against Volendam. And besides his two goals, the playmaker was also superb in giving clever passes.
The first time for Van der Vaart to celebrate came after only five minutes. After Maxwell made it to the offensive box with a few beautiful moves,Tom Soetaers delivered an excellent cross. Wesley Sonck jumped higher than everybody and forcefully headed the ball into the netting: 1-0.
Exactly according to plan. But Julien Escudé changed the script. The Frenchman could not get the ball out of Ajax's box and despite brave efforts by goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont, Dion Esajas scored. It was tied after thirteen minutes.
,,And that angers me, said a disappointed Koeman. ,,Those bad moments decide whether or not you advance in the UEFA Champions League. Volendam scored the 1-1 by themselves, but I thought we helped them well with that.
After that, Volendam's part in the match was almost played out. Ajax were simply too good. Van der Vaart illustrated the difference in quality by scoring twice in six minutes and all but put the match on ice: 3-1
That allowed Koeman to carry on with his plans. Johnny Heitinga made his return in Ajax's first team after being out for almost a year with a knee injury. ,,That was a bonus for him, Koeman explained. ,,He deserved it. He is back and played well in Sweden too. Of course it hurts me that I have to let Wesley Sneijder sit on the bench. But Wesley also knows that nobody is bigger than the team.
Koeman's last substitution was Nicolae Mitea for Soetaers. The little Romanian winger paid back his coach's trust in him by flashing by two defenders and scoring with his first real touch: 5-1. After his goal, Mitea ran to assistent coach Ruud Krol for a warm embrace and Koeman also patted him on the back. Everything went according to plan.
Ajax's fifth goal was one which illustrated the team spirit. Again Van der Vaart started it all. He touched the ball through to Sonck, who played out the goalkeeper. To the whole stadium's amazement, the Belgian striker waited long with his next move. But then everybody understood. Sonck was waiting for Hatem Trabelsi. The defender, who had had two scoring opportunities earlier, cut to the ball and put it away for 5-1.