AZ ran out 2-1 winners against ValenciaPublished on 29 maart 12, 00:00
AZ survived a few scares in the opening stages of a number of Europa League matches this season before. They took advantage of the experience when the Spanish side, currently lying in third place in the Spanish league, burst out of the blocks.
Jozy Altidore had the first chance of the match for AZ before Valencia put intense pressure on the Alkmaar defence, playing their fluid passing game. Roberto Soldado shot into the side netting after dispossessing Ragnar Klavan and Esteban made an excellent reflex save to deny the striker. Klavan made amends for his earlier mistake by blocking Jordi Alba´s well-placed shot.
Holman, Altidore and Johann Berg Gudmundsson started a few counter attacks for AZ, but were unable to create any clear-cut chances. With an electric atmosphere in the stadium, the game sparked into life when Holman gave AZ the lead in the dying seconds of the first half. Martens sent in a corner from the right and the Australian hit a wonderful volley into the roof of the net: 1-0. It was all square six minutes after the restart. Mehmet Topal rose high to meet Ricardo Costas´ cross with a powerful header, beating Dirk Marcellis in the air: 1-1. Esteban then kept AZ in the game with a string of fine saves.
AZ were not satisfied with earning just a share of the spoils and went in search of a winner and it arrived on 79 minutes. Simon Poulsen found Holman on the left flank. The Australian pulled the ball across the box and it fell to Maarten Martens who side footed to a great finish: 2-1.
AZ continued to chase the Spanish team around on the pitch and had one more chance, when a long range effort from Maher fizzed just wide of the post. AZ will defend their slender advantage in the return leg in Mestalla next week Thursday.
Verbeek: Morale-boosting win
Im happy with my teams performance , said Gertjan Verbeek at the post-match conference. We scored two goals against a quality team. The AZ coach refused to get carried away despite the 2-1 win. Its a morale-boosting win, but a semi-final place has not been booked yet, warned Verbeek. Yet tonights victory has boosted our confidence, ahead of Sundays league clash at Vitesse.
Europa League quarter-finals
AZ line-up: Esteban; Dirk Marcellis, Niklas Moisander, Ragnar Klavan, Simon Poulsen; Adam Maher, Rasmus Elm, Maarten Martens; Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Jozy Altidore (77. Charlison Benschop), Brett Holman.
Valencia line-up: Diego Alves; Antonio Barragán, Ricardo Costa, Angel Dealbert, Jérémy Mathieu (77. Pablo Piatti); Pablo Hernández, Mehmet Topal, Sofiane Feghouli (65. Jonas), Ricardo Costa, Jrodi Alba; Roberto Soldado.
Goals: 44. Holman 1-0, 51. Topal 1-1, 79. Martens 2-1.
Booked: Maher (AZ), Barragán, Dealbert (Valencia).
Sent off: -
Referee: Martin Atkinson (England).
Photos: Ed van de Pol / www.edvandepol.nl