Austrian international midfielder René Aufhauser was left to reflect on a "perfect day" after scoring a hat-trick against FK Ventspils to lead FC Salzburg to the brink of a place in the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round.
Having claimed the Austrian Bundesliga title by a massive 19-point margin last season, Salzburg have set their sights further afield this term. European success has eluded them in recent seasons but last night's 3-0 victory in Latvia bodes well. Aufhauser was at the heart of it, scoring twice in the first half before rounding off his three-goal haul from the penalty spot eight minutes from time. "This day couldn't have been any better; everything went perfect for me," said the 31-year-old midfielder.
It was an impressive individual display by a man who did not even make the final 16 for Salzburg's match against LASK Linz last Saturday. "That was the first time I didn't make the squad despite being fit," said Aufhauser. "It was a very weird feeling." The Austrian international insists the experience gave him "positive energy", and helped inspire his hat-trick – the second time he has collected the match ball in ten months having scored three in Austria's 4-1 victory over Trinidad & Tobago last November.
Yet it is team honours that Aufhauser covets more than anything, and after the disappointment of UEFA Champions League elimination in the third qualifying round by Valencia CF 12 months ago, he has set his sights on going one better this time around. "It is always the same old same old - it's about time that we worked it out," he said. Barring any drama next Wednesday in the return with Ventspils, belief could grow that this could be Salzburg's year.
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