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Give us a Kalou

Published: Friday 17 December 2004, 12.00CET
Two Bonaventure Kalou goals at Ibrox propelled AJ Auxerre into the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.
Published: Friday 17 December 2004, 12.00CET

Give us a Kalou

Two Bonaventure Kalou goals at Ibrox propelled AJ Auxerre into the last 32 of the UEFA Cup.

By Jim Wirth & Christian Châtelet

He will score better goals, but it is unlikely that he will score that many more important ones. With his two strikes against Rangers FC at Ibrox on Wednesday night, Bonaventure Kalou propelled Guy Roux's AJ Auxerre into the final 32 of the UEFA Cup.

Two strikes
For his first goal he hit the bar with a ninth-minute shot before bundling the rebound beyond Rangers goalkeeper Stefan Klos. The second a minute into the second half saw him steady himself with an excellent touch before miscuing a shot that nonetheless beat Klos to secure a famous victory.

Comfortable win
Roux for one was surprised at how easily his side had won the day in Glasgow. "I didn't expect it to be quite so easy tonight but the first goal obviously helped us," said the 66-year-old coach. "Rangers played a traditional British style with a lot of high balls but we kept our heads and made sure they didn't score."

'Can't complain'
Kalou could only echo his coach's comments. It really was that easy. "Rangers were unsure at times and that gave us confidence," he said. "I was allowed quite a bit of space for my goals which was a surprise but I can't complain. They had a man prepared to mark me but I face that every week in France."

Golden prospects
Having reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 1989/90 - and indeed the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 1996/97 - Auxerre are no novices on the European stage, but having recovered from losing almost a whole generation of players in the summer, they could be due another golden season.

New signings
Philippe Mexes, Olivier Kapo, Djibril Cissé and Jean-Alain Boumsong - who played against his old side for Rangers on Wednesday - all left the Abbé Deschamps this summer leaving Roux to pick up the pieces with a new crop of young players and typically astute signings like Luigi Pieroni, Benoît Cheyrou and René Bolf.

Fadiga replacement
However, it was the 26-year-old Kalou that caught the eye at Ibrox after sitting out Auxerre's previous game against KS Amica Wronki through injury. Having won the Eredivisie title with Feyenoord in 1998/99 and the UEFA Cup in 2001/02, the Ivory Coast star joined Auxerre in July 2003 as a replacement for the FC Internazionale Milano-bound Senegalese international Khalilou Fadiga.

Feyenoord successor
Well loved at the De Kuip for his exciting skills, which occasionally masked a lack of killer instinct in front of goal, his place at Feyenoord has now been filled by his younger brother, the astronomically-rated Salomon Kalou - who himself was the Player of the Week a few weeks ago.

Ivorian cohort
Getting settled at his new club was an easy task for Kalou, as Auxerre already had another Ivorian player - Kanga Akale, who signed a few months before Kalou - and the two have become fast friends. "We don't miss our country, we're no longer children," said Kalou. "But we're happy together, simply because we have complementary personalities."

Trophy hunger
Kalou went to France with one thing in his mind - winning trophies. As he said at the time of his initial transfer: "It is time for me to develop my career elsewhere. I want to win more trophies. That might happen at Auxerre." It has not happened yet, but with performances like Wednesday night's, it may not be too long before Kalou gets his hands on some silverware again.

Last updated: 17/12/04 11.04CET

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