Matías Suárez has taken time to make his mark at RSC Anderlecht but his exploits in their UEFA Europa League group stage opener against AEK Athens FC showed the Argentinian forward is at last settled in Brussels.
The 23-year-old was the only hat-trick scorer on matchday one, inspiring Anderlecht to a 4-1 home win and leaving them nicely placed in Group L as they visit FC Lokomotiv Moskva on Thursday. "It was my first hat-trick for Anderlecht," Suárez said.
"I have definitely been playing well in some games without scoring, but scoring always makes you feel better about your performance. The three goals were very different. With the first one, I just knew I would hit the target, while the other two goals were more opportunistic."
Suárez joined Anderlecht in 2008 from CA Belgrano for €1.2m but after an injury-hit debut season and a more successful 2009/10 campaign – which brought him 11 Belgian top-flight goals – he often found himself relegated to the bench last term. In fact, his future at the club seemed in question until the departures of Mbark Boussoufa, Romelu Lukaku and Jonathan Legear offered Suárez a chance he has grabbed with both hands.
"I feel better than last season," he said. "I have built up some muscle but, more importantly, have become stronger mentally. My relationship with the coach has also changed.
Ariël Jacobs gives me a lot of confidence and also talks with me more. Our conversations are not too long but every week he asks how I am and how I feel. That shows he believes in me.
"Anderlecht are also playing more football on the deck, which suits me more than high balls," he added. "I hope my good form continues. I keep working hard. It doesn't matter if I play as a deep-lying striker or elsewhere, I just need to have some freedom in my game and to be able to get on the ball."
Jacobs says he never doubted the ability of the speedy Suárez, who can operate down the middle or on the left. "My relationship with Suárez has not changed," the coach said. "From his first match I recognised his pace and ability, but every new player has ups and downs. I tried to guide him as much as possible in that process. His difficult seasons never really worried me.
"Whether we will see the good Suárez all season is hard to predict, but he has certainly become physically stronger," added Jacobs. "In his first seasons he went to ground all the time, but against AEK he stayed on his feet and scored while they were hanging off him."
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