Demy de Zeeuw's early strike – his first in the UEFA Champions League – helped AFC Ajax to a 2-1 victory over AJ Auxerre which propelled the Dutch side back into contention to qualify from Group G.
His seventh-minute opener, a top-corner rocket from just outside the box, not only provided Ajax with the perfect platform against their Ligue 1 guests; it also gave De Zeeuw the confidence to turn in a commanding performance at the heart of Ajax's midfield.
"Everything went well with my game this evening," the Dutch international told UEFA.com. "I haven't been feeling that great over recent weeks so it felt liberating, especially scoring a goal like that. It's much better to do it that way than with a tap-in. I think I might have broken the camera in the net.
"We had studied Auxerre beforehand and knew they would try to launch the ball forward as quickly as possible, but we coped well in the first half," added the 27-year-old midfielder. "Then they managed to get one long pass behind our defence in the second half and it led to a red card and a goal, and eventually we really had to dig deep to take three points."
That moment, in the 55th minute, was unquestionably the big talking point. Until then, the visitors had barely had an attempt on goal, and Ajax looked capable of playing out the match on cruise control. However, André Ooijer was shown the red card for pulling back Dennis Oliech as he broke free, Valter Birsa fired in the resulting free-kick, and suddenly it was game on.
Cédric Hengbart, the Auxerre defender, realised his side had passed up an opportunity. "It's obviously a big disappointment," said the right-back. "In the first half they were the better team, but in the second we had a lot of chances when it was 11 against ten. Unfortunately it just didn't work out. Now we have to go all out for victory in two weeks' time and take things from there."
Ajax centre-half Jan Vertonghen, meanwhile, insisted there was a new target for the Amsterdam club in Group G. "We've got the same number of points as [AC] Milan now, so why shouldn't we aim for second spot in the group?" he said. "With this squad of players anything is possible."
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