The self-effacing manner in which Klaas Jan Huntelaar talked uefa.com through a night of personal glory showed that the AFC Ajax striker possesses a character trait common to many of the continent's leading marksmen: public humility.
It took the in-form Huntelaar only 16 minutes of his UEFA Champions League debut to announce his arrival on the European scene with a perfectly timed leap and expertly placed header to open the scoring against FC Internazionale Milano. "It was a great feeling to score," the 22-year-old told uefa.com. "And the night was going even better when we went 2-0 ahead. But I am left with mixed feelings because of the way things changed in the second half."
An Inter fightback to 2-2 has left the Dutch club with a tough task when they travel to Italy for the second leg of this first knockout round tie, but that could not detract from an impressive display from the Eredivisie's 23-goal (in 22 games) top scorer. Pressed to elaborate further on his dream debut, the young Dutchman played the team man to perfection. "Personally it wasn't bad at all, but the result was not perfect and that is what counts in the end."
'A really good thing'
Team-mate Urby Emanuelson was more forthcoming in explaining just what the €9m January signing from SC Heerenveen brings to Ajax. Emanuelson said to uefa.com: "Huntelaar is a real killer in front of goal. When he shoots, you know it's always going to be on target. That's not his only strength, however, as when you play the ball up to him you know he's going to be able to hold on to it. His signing has been a really good thing for Ajax."
Huntelaar has registered six goals in seven league matches for the Amsterdam team, including four last Sunday against RBC Roosendal, to add to the 17 he struck for Heerenveen. Seemingly unfazed by the big occasion, Huntelaar looks set for a great future. Seasoned Inter defenders Walter Samuel and Iván Córdoba can certainly attest to his awkwardness as an opponent. A similar showing in the San Siro and Huntelaar could yet help Ajax coach Danny Blind collect another UEFA Champions League winner's medal to add to the one claimed as an Ajax player in 1995.
Still, as Huntelaar pointed out, football is a team game and strikers depend on the quality of their service. Defender Emanuelson, 19, admitted that quality was lacking during the second-half retreat against Inter. "We made Huntelaar's job too difficult," he said. "We played too many long balls and stopped playing the good football that had served us well before half-time. In Milan we have to play our game, which is football. They will have to attack so we still have a chance."
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