Klaas Jan Huntelaar was the star of the show in the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday. The newly acquired striker scored four goals against last-placed RBC Roosendaal and was voted Ajax player of the match after the 6-0 win, which was a confidence-booster for the side with the Champions League match against Internazionale only days away.
Sure, Hatem Trabelsi provided three assists. Markus Rosenberg scored two goals. And Olaf Lindebergh was his usual, valuable self as the architect in midfield. But Huntelaar was voted man of the match with 67 per cent of the votes, which incredibly meant that one-third of all voters thought somebody else had done better. It was five years ago that an Ajax player (Shota Arveladze) had scored four times in one match and even longer ago that an Ajax player made a hattrick. And all four goals were good ones, scored against a not-so-bad defence. RBC's problem is their attack. Twice, an Ajax defender produced an errant pass which left one of RBC's forwards wide-open before Maarten Stekelenburg's goal, but none of the guests' strikers managed to shoot the ball even between the goal posts.
After only three minutes, Klaas Jan Huntelaar headed in a cross by right back Hatem Trabelsi: 1-0. When markus Rosenberg made it 2-0 in the 28th minute, after Mauro Rosales rushed past his defenders and fired on the goalkeeper's gloves, RBC knew it was on another Mission Impossible. Coach Robert Maaskant's team has a mere 5 points after 25 matches. It was a pity, then, that Ajax waited long before really illustrating the difference in quality between the two sides. Even giving RBC hope with the two howlers that would have caused two goals allowed against other teams.
Part of the reason that the crowd had to wait until the 71st minute for the next goal, was that Ajax's defenders when coming forward all tried to score from distance themselves, instead of trying to find Holland's most prolific goalscorer. Enter again Trabelsi, who spotted Huntelaar waiting in the box. The striker took the ball and fired it in with his left while turning: 3-0. And seven minutes later more of the same: Trabelsi looked for Huntelaar, who powered the cross in with his right while sliding past his defender.
Still, Huntelaar was hungry for more and in the 83rd minute he headed in a corner kick by Rosales: 5-0, and a hattrick for Huntelaar, who scored his fourth of the afternoon. His fellow striker Rosenberg got in on the act when he put in a rebound after an artistic highlight between youngsters Jeffrey Sarpong and Urby Emanuelson. When the last two goals were scored, Michael Timisela was on the pitch for Trabelsi. The young defender made his debut for the first team.
Next to all the attention for Huntelaar's heroics, there was also the matter of the players who had to be taken off with physical problems, Tomás Galásek and Thomas Vermaelen. Wednesday's Champions League match against Internazionale cast his shadow on the league match. Captain Galásek had to be taken off with a thigh injury after only 24 minutes (he was replaced by John Heitinga). The Czech midfielder will miss the match against the Italians. Vermaelen had stomach cramps; his participation in the European match is not in danger.
Ajax will miss both Galásek and Zdenek Grygera on Wednesday, but the side gained confidence with the big win. Certainly Klaas Jan Huntelaar will play with added confidence after his four goals, and Ajax will need another peak performance from their goalgetter against the Italians.