AFC Ajax coach Henk ten Cate described Sunday's 8-1 win against De Graafschap as an important shot in the arm for striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar who got the new Eredivisie campaign off to a flying start with four goals at the De Vijverberg stadium.
Huntelaar put his disappointment at being left out of the Netherlands squad on Friday behind him when he opened the scoring nine minutes before the break, then added three more late on, including an 88th-minute penalty to complete his hat-trick. Huntelaar’s successful spot kick brought relief to Ten Cate who had watched the 24-year-old striker miss an important penalty in last week's 1-0 defeat at home by SK Slavia Praha in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. "This win is good for us and of course for Klaas Jan as well," Ten Cate said. "Normally I don't get involved with the penalties, but this time I went to the touchline. Huntelaar had to take the penalty. This is good for his confidence. I am happy for Klaas."
Ajax struggled initially and it was not until Huntelaar broke the deadlock nine minutes from the break that they were able to settle. After that they were soon in command. Luis Suárez had set up Huntelaar for the opener and the Dutchman returned the favour three minutes before the break, crossing for his Uruguayan strike partner to open his Ajax account following his €7.5m transfer from FC Groningen earlier this month. The goals continued to flow after the break. Substitute Hedwiges Maduro struck on 55 and 59 minutes before Kennedy Bakircioglü added the fifth with a powerful shot into the corner. Huntelaar made it six on 70 minutes, and though Donny De Groot pulled one back for the home side soon after, the result was already beyond doubt. Huntelaar made it 7-1 from the penalty spot after Suárez had been brought down then headed in the eighth late on.
"The first goal came at a good time and the second at an even better time," Ten Cate said. "At the beginning we had some problems with De Graafschap. They positioned themselves well and worked hard. After our first two goals, the tempo increased and then you knew De Graafschap would not be able to keep up." The victory puts a difficult week behind Ajax, following the sale of star winger Wesley Sneijder to Real Madrid CF and the defeat against Slavia in the UEFA Champions League. Ten Cate's side will now look to build on the result at home to SC Heerenveen next Sunday.
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