28 November 2013
Former South African Footballer of the Year Thulani Serero grabbed the headlines in the Uefa Champions League after scoring a stunning opener for Ajax Amsterdam in an upset victory over Spanish powerhouse Barcelona on Tuesday evening.
After Serero’s 19th minute goal, Danny Hoesen made it 2-0 to Ajax in the 41st minute. However, only two minutes into the second half Ajax were reduced to 10 men when Joel Veltman was sent off for a bad tackle on Neymar. Xavi converted the subsequent penalty to make it 2-1.
Ajax, however, held on for a stunning victory over a Barcelona team that had won 13 and drawn one in Spain’s La Liga this season, along with three wins and a draw in the Champions League.
An experience to forget
For some of the Barcelona players, it would have been another South African experience they wish to forget, following soon after Bafana Bafana’s 1-0 upset of world and European champions Spain in Johannesburg on 19 November.
Tuesday’s defeat was the first for Gerardo Martino since taking charge of Barca, but he was magnanimous in his assessment of Ajax’s performance, saying they were better in all phases of the game and highlighting their intensity as key to the victory.
Serero’s goal, which gave the Dutch giants the belief that they could win, was the result of a fine move, featuring fast and accurate ball movement, and when the ball came in from the right the South African star timed his run perfectly, coming into the box late before one-timing the ball into the back of the net from seven yards out. The crowd went crazy and the Ajax players celebrated.
Hoesen’s goal came when he neatly cleaned up a blocked shot by the goalkeeper and beat two defenders to secure possession before slotting a left footed shot into the keeper’s left-hand corner.
‘Reminded us of Benni McCarthy’
“Serero, who scored a goal for Ajax Amsterdam against Barcelona, was a marvel to watch,” South African Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula wrote in The Sowetan on Tuesday. “He reminded us of Benni McCarthy during his Champions League run under the ‘Special One’, Jose Mourinho, during their time at Porto FC. It shows we have excellence in our midst.”
Serero missed Bafana Bafana’s recent victory over Spain because has was reportedly not 100 percent fit. He had been dropped from the South African squad in September after a fallout with coach Gordon Igesund, but that situation was subsequently patched up, The Sowetan reported earlier this month.
Before joining Ajax Amsterdam, Serero played for South African Premier Soccer League club Ajax Cape Town, and in his final season won the PSL Footballer of the Year, PSL Player of the Season, PSL Players’ Player of the Season and the Absa Premiership Red Hot Young Player awards.
He signed for Ajax Amsterdam in May 2011 in a deal worth €2.5-million.