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Ajax forward Haller silences critics with four goals

It was only last month that Sebastien Haller was mocked off the pitch, but the imposing Ajax forward proved his worth on Wednesday with four goals in his 5-1 Champions League win at Sporting Lisbon. The lanky 27-year-old striker, whom Ajax forgot to register for European competition last season, delivered a masterclass in the finish as the Dutch club got off to a great start to their Group C campaign.

“It’s my best game ever. You only dream of this. You wait your whole life for these kinds of games, ”said Haller. “You should enjoy such games, they are great memories. I just had to score, not only for myself, but also for the team and the fans.

Last season, an administrative error saw Haller’s name removed from Ajax’s entry list for the knockout stages of the Europa League and he was forced to sit on the sidelines as they qualified for the quarter-finals. “You expect it even more,” Haller said of his chance to play for Ajax in Europe.

The French-born Ivorian international is the second player in Champions League history to score four goals on his debut, but the first to do so in an away game. Haller, who was Ajax’s record signing when they paid West Ham United € 22.5million ($ 26.52million) in January, was booed last month when he was replaced in a 4-0 loss to PSV Eindhoven in the season opener Johan Bouclier Cruyff.

However, coach Erik ten Hag said any doubts about his abilities had been dispelled. “Four goals in the Champions League … I think it’s very exceptional. I remember (Marco) Van Basten did it, and he’s one of the biggest icons, and that shows how it is a historic achievement.

“It also says a lot about Haller’s qualities. Not only in the physicality that it brings, but also in the sense of its positioning and its finish. You also have to be mentally strong to be able to do this. ($ 1 = 0.8485 euros) (Written by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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