Udinese Calcio captain Vincenzo Iaquinta has described his hat-trick on the club's UEFA Champions League debut as the "best moment" of his career.
The 25-year-old Italy forward struck in the 28th, 73rd and 76th minutes to seal a 3-0 home victory against a stunned Panathinaikos FC. It was no surprise then that the Italian press were full of superlatives for a player who has learnt his trade in six seasons at the Friuli stadium.
"Super Iaquinta" wrote Gazzetta dello Sport. "He cut down the Greek defence like an axe cuts a tree. He scored in three different ways to show all his repertoire - an unforgettable night." Meanwhile, Corriere dello Sport hailed the "Iaquinta show", adding: "Udinese could not even dream of a debut like this in Europe. We saw Inter and Milan struggling in their debuts but Udinese were simply marvellous and Iaquinta's hat-trick was a masterpiece."
His first was a header from Damiano Zenoni's cross, his second came after he raced on to an Antonio Di Natale pass. The third arrived soon after, courtesy of a powerful drive. Few present would deny that Iaquinta could have doubled his tally, with his marauding display never allowing the visitors to settle.
Time to reflect
After catching his breath, Iaquinta said: "It's got to be the best moment of my career. Playing in the Champions League, wearing the captain's armband for the first time, and then scoring a hat-trick. It doesn't get much better."
He was leading the team in the absence of flu-ridden Valerio Bertotto but whether he has the armband or not, it is clear that Iaquinta will have a major role to play in Udinese's first voyage through Europe's premier club competition. Next up is the Camp Nou in a fortnight - Ronaldinho and company have been warned.
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