AZ claim impressive win over Udinese

Published on 08 maart 12, 00:00
ALKMAAR- AZ claimed victory over Udinese in the first leg of the Europa League round of 16. Maarten Martens and Erik Falkenburg scored second-half goals at the AFAS Stadion on Thursday night to earn Gertjan Verbeek´s team an impressive 2-0 win over the Italian side, currently fourth in the Serie A.

AZ were boosted by the return to fitness of Maarten Martens as the Belgian playmaker had scored a number of decisive goals for his team lately. Udinese´s leading scorer, Antonio Di Natale, was on the bench as the 34-year-old striker can no longer play several games a week.

After Kwadwo Asamoah had had a half chance for the visitors, AZ dominated first-half proceedings, putting pressure on the Italian defence. The hosts did not create any meaningful chances yet. Rasmus Elm tried his luck from long range and Brett Holman forced  keeper Samir Handanovic into a fine save. Udinese came close to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of half-time but Danilo sent his header straight at Esteban.

Udinese showed more attacking ideas after the restart. Floro Flores was denied by Esteban while Giovanni Pasquale flashed a volley wide. AZ made the breakthrough after 63 minutes. Martens found Jozy Altidore on the right wing and headed home the American’s deflected cross: 1-0.

AZ went in search of a second goal, while Damiano Ferronetti threatened on the counter attack. The home side had several chances to double their lead in the closing stages. Captain Niklas Moisander found himself with room to shoot but it was a weak effort straight at Handanovic.

AZ extended their advantage six minutes from time. Substitute Falkenburg, who had replaced the slightly injured Martens in the 78th minute, kept his composure, tapping home Altidore low cross at the far post: 2-0.

The Italians were hanging in the ropes but AZ omitted to kill the game. Handanovic made a fingertip save to deny Falkenburg, while Altidore should have done better than send a feeble header straight at the keeper. AZ are favourites to progress to the quarter-finals, but the Italians still have a chance to reach the final eight in the return leg in Udinese next week Thursday.

“Mission accomplished”, said Verbeek at the post-match conference. “We put in a fine display and earned a deserved 2-0 win. Udinese posed a threat twice when they quickly switched from defence to attack. We patiently passed the ball around and eventually created space in depth on the wings, with our first goal summing it up. Yet I expect Udinese will attempt to bounce back in the return leg next week.”

AZ – Udinese 2–0 (0-0)

Europa League, round of 16

AZ line-up: Esteban; Dirk Marcellis, Niklas Moisander, Nick Viergever, Simon Poulsen; Adam Maher, Rasmus Elm, Maarten Martens (78. Erik Falkenburg); Roy Beerens (74. Johann Berg Gudmundsson), Jozy Altidore, Brett Holman (86. Celso Ortiz).
Udinese line-up: Samir Handanovic; Mehdi Benatia, Danilo, Maurizio Domizzi; Michele Pazienza; Damiano Ferronetti, Giampiero Pinzi, Kwadwo Asamoah, Giovanni Pasquale (80. Antonio Di Natale); Antonio Floro Flores, Pablo Armero.

Goals: 63. Martens 1-0, 84. Falkenburg 2-0.
Booked: Elm (AZ), Domizzi, Pazienza, Danilo (Udinese).
Sent off: -
Referee: David Fernandez Borbalan
Attendance: 12.579

Photos: Ed van de Pol /