Ajax dominates Sporting 1-5 in Champions League opener; Haller scores four
Sébastien Haller helped Ajax to a great start in the Champions League. The 27-year-old striker scored no fewer than four times in the Amsterdam club’s 1-5 victory against Sporting Portugal, and took Man of the Match honors in his Champions League debut. He was not the only star of coach Erik ten Hag's team. Brazilian forward Antony was elusive at times, and was involved in three goals at Estádio José Alvalade.
It was the best match of his career, Haller said. “It couldn't be better. This feels great. Thanks to the teammates I could also score those goals,” he said after the match. “That kind of match you have the feeling you will make every shot.” Haller, who also netted the ball twice on Saturday against PEC Zwolle (0-2), was considered controversial for a long time with some Ajax supporters who often compare a new striker to Marco van Basten or Patrick Kuivert. By the 90th minute, the 1,200 fans who had traveled to Lisbon were chanting his name after he scored four times in his Champions League debut. Marco van Basten also did that in 1992 for AC Milan in a match against Gothenburg.
It turned out to be a good thing that Ajax has registered Haller with the European football association UEFA this season. The striker only needed 9 minutes to set a record in the Champions League for fastest two goals in a player’s debut. Haller put Ajax ahead with a header just 68 seconds after the match got underway after Antony had hit the post . Less than 8 minutes later, Haller scored again, also on a pass from Antony.
Ajax played at a very different pace than in recent weeks during away matches against FC Twente and PEC Zwolle. The Champions League was inspiring for Ten Hag's players. Ajax as a club is organized in such a way in recent years that it desperately needs the millions of euros up for grabs by playing in the lucrative tournament. That's why it Was a bit strange that the club started the Champions League with two older goalkeepers. The nearly 39-year-old Maarten Stekelenburg dropped out just before the game with groin complaints. Because of that, 37-year-old Remko Pasveer was allowed to defend the goal.
Pasveer, who came over from Vitesse this summer, made a horrific mistake in the 33rd minute. He let a weak shot from Paulinho slip between his legs. Ajax seemed taken aback for a moment, but answered 6 minutes later. Antony, again, found Ryan Gravenberch who in turn played it on to Steven Berghuis. The substitute for the injured Davy Klaassen capped a beautiful attack to make it 1-3.
Minutes after the restart, Paulinho thought he headed his team back to 2-3, and again Pasveer did not look sharp. The goal was disallowed by the VAR because Paulinho was offside.
Once again Haller took pressure off his team in the 51st minute. Haller completed his hat trick to make it 1-4. As if that wasn't enough, Haller also to his total in the 63rd minute to take the score to 1-5.
Reporting by ANP