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Super sub Fernandão firing Fenerbahçe

Having made vital contributions from the bench on the last two matchdays, Fenerbahçe's Fernandão is aiming to sink Ajax once again in Amsterdam on Thursday.

Fernandão celebrates his winner against Ajax
Fernandão celebrates his winner against Ajax ©Getty Images

Competing with Robin van Persie for a striker's spot is no easy task but Fernandão is making a telling case to be first choice at Fenerbahçe after his invaluable substitute cameos in the Yellow Canaries' Group A campaign.

With three goals in his last two UEFA Europa League outings – crucially earning both a 2-2 draw at Celtic and the 1-0 home win over Ajax – the 28-year-old Brazilian may well be in coach Vítor Pereira's starting plans for the matchday four trip to Amsterdam. It would be due reward for a man who thrives as the underdog.

A towering and muscular presence, Fernandão was an unknown in Turkey when brought from Atlético Paranaense to Bursaspor in January 2014. In a season and a half in Bursa, however, he crashed in 32 goals in 48 top-flight matches – top-scoring in the Süper Lig last term – yet despite his ensuing move to Fenerbahçe, the transfer was overshadowed by the arrivals of Van Persie, Nani and Simon Kjær.

Fernandão during his Bursaspor spell
Fernandão during his Bursaspor spell©Bursaspor

Nonetheless, Fernandão has quietly gone about his business and eight goals in 17 appearances – three more than his Dutch rival – plus his impact off the bench have made him impossible to ignore. "If he comes off the bench and makes big contributions, it shows how motivated he is. It was like that against Celtic – I saw how motivated he was," said Pereira. "One of the two forwards has to be on the bench in order for me to make changes. If I don't have that alternative, I can't change things around."

The coach's wish to be able to shuffle his pack mid-contest means he has failed to deploy a two-man front line with regularity, and with the departure of Moussa Sow at the start of the campaign the Portuguese has to manage his striking candidates carefully.

Not one to complain, Fernandão has stated he has the utmost respect for the coach's decision and that he simply wants to do his best when given the chance. "It's the team that matters," he said.

Offering a totally different option from the silky, ball-playing Van Persie, the former Guarani, Palmeiras and Bahia target man is adept at taking the fight to opposition defence, allowing team-mates to hit it long and forcing defenders into mistakes. "We had to keep the ball up front and Fernandão did just that," said Pereira after his 40th-minute introduction heralded a two-goal fightback at Celtic. "He scored twice and did precisely what I asked him to. It could even have been 3-2 for us!"

With Fernandão proceeding to notch an 89th-minute winner against Ajax on matchday three, he now has the Dutch side back in his sights for the 5 November rematch – and whether from the bench or from the first whistle it would be no surprise to see him find the net again.