UEFA.com works better on other browsers
For the best possible experience, we recommend using Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

Hengbart's Auxerre dreaming big again

Cédric Hengbart said AJ Auxerre's 2-1 win over AFC Ajax has relaunched the French side's Group G campaign and will ensure they have plenty of belief for AC Milan's visit on 23 November.

Auxerre are next in action against Milan
Auxerre are next in action against Milan ©Getty Images

Right-back Cédric Hengbart praised the contribution of team-mate Frédéric Sammaritano after the UEFA Champions League debutant helped "relaunch" AJ Auxerre's Group G bid with the opening goal in their 2-1 triumph against AFC Ajax.

Summer signing Sammaritano owed his first appearance in the competition to a long injury list and the suspension of fellow forward Dennis Oliech, but the match was only nine minutes old when he settled Auxerre nerves with a deflected strike from the edge of the area. The 24-year-old proceeded to carry much of the threat for Jean Fernandez's charges, even if the hosts needed Steeven Langil's 84th-minute finish from Kamel Chafni's quickly taken free-kick to seal the points after Toby Alderweireld had nodded Ajax level.

"Sammaritano brings us a lot," said Hengbart. "In his first few games he struggled because he wasn't used to the team, but he's gradually been getting better and tonight he played a great match. What he did goes to show that everyone in this squad can contribute at one moment or another."

The diminutive Sammaritano and strike partner Julien Quercia were both dwarfed by their opponents at the heart of the Ajax defence, but Hengbart praised his colleagues' use of pace and movement to create danger. "We tried not to put in too many high balls and it's true that playing that way troubled Ajax a lot. It made life difficult for their big defenders, especially the two centre-backs."

One of Auxerre's more experienced players at 30, Hengbart has nonetheless contested only three more group games than Sammaritano, and he suggested the French club have learnt from their campaign after starting with three defeats. "The quick thinking of Kamel Chafni won us the match," said the full-back. "That was reward for everything we've done in the Champions League this season. In some games we've lacked experience and been too naive, but this time it was us who did what was necessary for the victory."

Auxerre now find themselves just two points shy of second-placed AC Milan and one behind Ajax, with a huge amount riding on their home meeting with the Rossoneri on 23 November. "This has relaunched us," added Hengbart. "Against Milan we'll try to play the same way: go for it from the start, attack and try to win. If we can do that, we'd be almost certain of finishing third as there's still a game to come between Milan and Ajax."

Having missed the chance to go second themselves, the Ajax players were understandably distraught at the final whistle, with Maarten Stekelenburg reflecting the mood. "We eventually fought back in the second half and then just gave it away," said the Dutch international goalkeeper, whose side host section leaders Real Madrid CF on Matchday 5. "We could have won if you look at the second half in particular and the manner in which we conceded our goals. It's disappointing we lost and now we have to turn to the next game."