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Ajax aces and Adriano go for goals

Published: Tuesday 14 March 2006, 3.04CET
While AFC Ajax's strikers are in free-scoring form, FC Internazionale Milano captain Javier Zanetti expects Adriano to finish the job at home tonight.
by John Atkin
from Milan features

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Published: Tuesday 14 March 2006, 3.04CET

Ajax aces and Adriano go for goals

While AFC Ajax's strikers are in free-scoring form, FC Internazionale Milano captain Javier Zanetti expects Adriano to finish the job at home tonight.

Javier Zanetti believes Adriano's return to goalscoring form against UC Sampdoria on Saturday will complete FC Internazionale Milano's arsenal as they go into their UEFA Champions League first knockout round return against AFC Ajax. However, as Ajax have already demonstrated in this tie, they have forward propulsion of their own.

Settling influence
Brazil striker Adriano bundled the ball in just before half-time for the winner against Sampdoria as Inter kept pace with AC Milan in the race for Italy's second automatic UEFA Champions League spot, and the onlooking Zanetti was impressed. "It was not an easy game but Adriano's goal made the difference. It settled us and from then on we were much more comfortable," said the captain, who missed out after the first suspension of his eleven-year career at the Giuseppe Meazza.

'Important weapon'
Adriano himself had been banned before the Sampdoria match, having to stew on the sidelines following a barren run of eleven games without a goal. "He trained hard while he was suspended and then returned with a goal," Zanetti continued. "He's an important weapon for us, and when he's on top form he can really hurt people." The 24-year-old's UEFA Champions League record of eleven goals in 13 appearances testifies to that, but after the dramatic start to the first leg, Inter know not to take things for granted.

Too lax
"We know Ajax are a good young side who shouldn't be given too much space, but we failed to close them down in the first half in Amsterdam," said Zanetti who, at 32, was older than anyone in the Dutch team's starting XI. That freedom allowed Mauro Rosales and Klaas Jan Huntelaar to plunder an early two-goal lead for the hosts, before Inter clawed their way back into the tie with second-half strikes from Dejan Stanković and Julio Cruz, the Argentinian registering with just four minutes remaining.

Promising springboard
Nevertheless, the warning signs are there for Inter, and Ajax's Sweden forward Markus Rosenberg believes they can take heart from their dominant first-half display at the Amsterdam ArenA. "The first leg was two different games as far as we're concerned," the 23-year-old said. "The first half was great and the second not so good. We can take a lot from our performance before the break, though, and build on that in Milan."

Free-scoring Ajax
The Eredivisie club have had a lot to take from their recent showings, having embarked upon a run of five successive victories prior to Saturday's goalless draw with PSV Eindhoven. Gone is the domestic lethargy that blighted much of their campaign, and with eleven goals during this spell, Huntelaar has drawn credit as the architect of the upsurge. He is not yet Ajax's top scorer, however. That honour goes to Rosenberg, who has registered 12 times in the league despite being forced into an unfamiliar left-wing position since Huntelaar's January arrival.

'Good chance'
"It's always like that," the Swede said of his team-mate's goals glut. "Sometimes you have times when you score a lot and sometimes not. Klaas Jan has been in fine form lately but when he doesn't score, someone else will." That has proved the case as Danny Blind's men have notched 38 goals in their last 14 Eredivisie outings, renewing confidence levels ahead of the UEFA Champions League decider in Milan. "We have a good chance," said Rosenborg. "We know we can beat them."

Last updated: 14/03/06 22.42CET

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