AZ held to a draw at home to sc Heerenveen

Published on 26 februari 12, 00:00
ALKMAAR- AZ shared the points with sc Heerenveen in a six-goal thriller at the AFAS Stadion on Sunday afternoon. Gertjan Verbeek´s team completely dominated first-half proceedings, but the visitors showed fighting spirit and resilience after the break. Jozy Altidore struck twice and Erik Falkenburg also got his name on the score sheet for AZ.

AZ took on sc Heerenveen three days after beating Anderlecht in Brussels. Several players had not come out of the physical game on Thursday unscathed. Charlison Benschop and Maarten Martens were forced to watch Sunday’s game from the stands after they had sustained an injury and  Niklas Moisander was out through suspension.

Erik Falkenburg, who put in a spirited display, replaced Martens as AZ got off to a bright start. Roy Beerens forced Brian Vandenbussche into a save and Brett Holman saw his header stopped by the keeper. Falkenburg cut into the box in the 20th minute and the sc Heerenveen custodian quickly came off his line. There was clearly contact but referee Björn Kuipers waved play on.

AZ made the breakthrough after 26 minutes. Rasmus Elm, who was outstanding, won the ball and found Altidore with a great pass. The American turned away from his marker Jeffrey Gouweleeuw before unleashing a low shot from the edge of the penalty area that beat Vandenbussche.

First-half chances
AZ went in search of a second goal and had chances to double their lead, but Marcelis´ long-range strike was deflected over, Holman had two shots blocked and Elm sent an effort wide.

AZ were made to rue the missed chances in the second half. Filip Djuricic levelled the score with a long-range strike in the 55th minutes but three minutes later AZ regained the lead. Brett Holman delivered a cross that Altidore controlled well before finishing clinically: 2-1.

AZ could have killed off the game, but Altidore sent a shot flashing across the face of goal and Falkenburg blazed over the bar. FC Groningen coach Ron Jans brought on two forwards, Gerald Sibon and Oussama Assaidi to bolster the attack. The substitutions paid off. Dost restored parity with a header and Luciano Narsingh chipped Esteban to put his side ahead.

AZ showed resilience in the closing stages and Falkenburg tapped home Holman’s cross from close range. AZ maintained their unbeaten home run, after suffering defeat last on 12 February 2011, but actually had deserved to win on Sunday afternoon.

“It’s been a great and entertaining game”, said Verbeek at the post-match conference. “And that’s what football is all about. Both teams showed resilience. I am satisfied my team came from behind in the wake of Thursday’s physical game Anderlecht. We maybe deserved more than a point, but we were unable to finish our chances.”

Title contenders
sc Heerenveen coach Jans admitted at the post-match conference that his side had been lucky to snatch a point, labelling AZ as genuine title-contenders. Verbeek: “Thanks for the compliments, but we will just wait and see. Each team will play 34 games and we’ll see which team ends up as champions. I am delighted with my team’s performance. Erik Falkenburg was handed a start again and he played extremely well.”

AZ – sc Heerenveen 3-3 (1-0)

AZ line-up: Esteban; Dirk Marcellis, Nick Viergever, Ragnar Klavan, Simon Poulsen; Erik Falkenburg, Rasmus Elm, Adam Maher; Roy Beerens, Jozy Altidore, Brett Holman (84. Johann Berg Gudmundsson).
sc Heerenveen line-up: Brian Vandenbussche; Doke Schmidt, Jeffrey Gouweleeuw, Ramon Zomer, Michel Breuer; Sven Kums (74. Geert Arend Roorda), Filip Djuricic (62. Oussama Assaidi), Viktor Elm; Luciano Narsingh, Bas Dost, Rajiv van La Parra (62. Gerald Sibon).

Goals: 26. Altidore 1-0, 55. Djuricic 1-1, 58. Altidore 2-1, 76. Dost 2-2, 81. Narsingh 2-3, 83. Falkenburg 3-3.
Booked: Kums (sc Heerenveen).
Sent off: -
Referee: Björn Kuipers
Attendance: 16.763