FC Salzburg's unbeaten start to the season, including a dominant opening to their UEFA Europa League campaign, has coincided with the outstanding form of forward Jonatan Soriano.
His hat-trick in the Group C curtain-raiser against Swedish club IF Elfsborg fired Salzburg to a 4-0 home win, and the 27-year-old scored again on Sunday as the Austrian Bundesliga leaders drew 2-2 with Wolfsberger AC. Such exploits are no surprise to those familiar with the striker's record, which includes a treble in the UEFA Europa League play-off first leg against VMFD Žalgiris.
"Obviously I am happy about the three goals, but the most important thing was that they helped the team to victory," the Spaniard said after Thursday's defeat of the Swedish champions. If Salzburg are currently benefiting from the skipper's rich vein of form, then their patience has been rewarded following Soriano's January 2012 move to Austria from FC Barcelona B. In his first six months at Salzburg, Soriano struck just three times in 11 appearances – an unsatisfactory return for a man who had netted 32 goals in 36 Spanish second-tier matches the previous season.
However, last term under new coach Roger Schmidt, Soriano rediscovered his scoring touch to bag 26 goals in 33 Bundesliga games and earn the captain's armband; the responsibility is helping him flourish. His nine strikes from nine 2013/14 league outings include a trio in Salzburg's 5-1 victory at SC Wiener Neustadt. That hat-tricks have become the Catalan's speciality was underlined by Soriano's three goals against Union St Florian in the Austrian Cup, making it four in 13 appearances in all competitions this season.
"Every time I score three goals I take the match ball home. I always get the team to sign it. This was my seventh overall," he said of his Elfsborg feat, ahead of which he had signed a new contract until 2017. "I am happy with the extension, also because my family and I feel very much at home in Salzburg. It is a great city – life here is fantastic with everyone being really friendly. I feel very appreciated."
Most of all, however, the former RCD Espanyol and Barcelona prospect is playing in a team which he believes has the potential to go all the way in the UEFA Europa League. "It is a tough competition, but it is possible. We have a very good side. The most important thing is to survive the group stage – from then on we can accomplish anything." The next step towards that aim is a visit to Denmark's Esbjerg fB on 3 October.
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