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Sweet 16: Lukaku comes to the party

RSC Anderlecht's 3-1 victory at AFC Ajax not only extended their
UEFA Europa League campaign, it heralded the emergence of 16-year-old Romelu Lukaku, scorer of two of the Belgian team's goals.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the victory over Ajax
Romelu Lukaku scored twice in the victory over Ajax ©Getty Images

RSC Anderlecht's 3-1 victory away to AFC Ajax on Thursday not only secured their continued participation in this season's UEFA Europa League, it heralded the emergence of a remarkable new talent.

Sixteen-year-old Romelu Lukaku, still at school and currently sitting exams, took time out of his studies to help lift his side above Ajax and to the top of Group A with two first-half headers. Although he is deemed too young to do post-match interviews, others were happy to do the talking for him.

'Highest level'
"You saw it for yourself; he was fantastic," said Anderlecht captain Olivier Deschacht, whose side took a three-goal lead into the break after Jonathan Legear added to Lukaku's double. "He normally distinguishes himself with his speed, but tonight he struck twice with his head. I hope he stays with us for another two or three years, so he can play a lot and build up his rhythm, and after that I think he could go to somewhere like England and play at the very highest level. I believe he's that good."

Physically strong
Urby Emanuelson, whose second-half consolation goal meant already-qualified Ajax avoided the dubious honour of equalling their worst ever European home loss, was also full of praise for his side's nemesis. "He's not an unknown quantity, we have Belgian players here who are aware of him and he played against us in Brussels. But to put in a performance like that at his age is quite something," the 23-year-old said. "He is physically so strong that it's difficult to get the ball from him. If he continues to develop then who knows how far he can go?"

'Not worthy of Ajax'
The Dutch international was less enthusiastic about his team's own performance. "We played at home and what we showed, especially in the first half, was not worthy of Ajax and unfair to our supporters. We were already through, maybe that made a difference, but things just didn't go right and Anderlecht deserved to be three up at the break."

Happy return
For Anderlecht's Jelle Van Damme, who used to ply his trade in the Amsterdam ArenA, the game had extra significance. "They were two very enjoyable matches against Ajax," he said. "It was nice to be back, and especially to play like we did. After our last game [defeat at home by NK Dinamo Zagreb] we knew we just had to stay organised because we have the quality to do well."