Thursday 13th March 2014
AZ ALKMAAR 1-0 ANZHI MAKHACHKALA
AZ Alkmaar have a 1-0 advantage over Russian Premier League side Anzhi Makhachkala in the race to reach the last eight of the Europa League. The Alkmaar side can thank the heroics of goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado after head coach Dick Advocaat was dismissed after leacing his technical area in an argument with Italian referee Daniele Orsato.
American striker Aron Jóhannsson just managed to convert a first-half penalty past Anzhi stopper Mikhail Kerzhakov to settle the match, but AZ withstood relentless pressure from the Russians. Advocaat’s men relied on a first-rate performance from their keeper Esteban to preserve their unbeaten run in this season’s competition and secure a slender lead to take to Russia next week.
The visitors came close to opening the scoring after an in the area scramble after quarter of an hour. Esteban was left prone after reacting to Aleksandr Bukharov’s blocked shot, and Fedor Smolov headed the rebound firmly back over the Costa Rican goalkeeper. Refusing to be beaten, though, the AZ number one scrambled to his feet, palmed the looping header upwards as he crashed to the ground, then clawed the dropping ball away before it could cross the line. It was an amazing save that lifted the roof of the AFAS Stadion.
The goal came just before the half-hour when Ali Gadzhibekov’s flailing arm cost his side a spot-kick and while Kerzhakov got two hands to Aron Jóhannsson‘s spot-kick, the ball bounced agonisingly over the line.
Alkmaar’s crossbar got some punishment from a free-kick by Olexandr Aliyev from 35 yards out, and Esteban stuck out a palm to deflect Bukharov’s close-range shot as the hosts stole a half-time lead against a desperately frustrated Anzhi.
After the interval, normal play resumed and Anzhi exploded out of the blocks in search of an equaliser with Aliyev worrying Esteban with another long-range free-kick, before substitute Nikita Burmistrov’s downward header tested the keeper’s positioning at the back stick with the keeper coming out on top.
Anzhi’s will wilted as the contest wore on AZ will take the slender lead to take to Russia next week. Meanwhile, Advocaat will not be present on the touchline as he faces a one-match ban by UEFA.
AZ: Esteban, Johansson, Gouweleeuw, Viergever, Poulsen (Wuytens 45), Gudelj, Ortiz, Elm, Berghuis (Gudmundsson 24), Jóhannsson, Beerens.
SUBS NOT USED: De Winter, Reijnen, Henriksen, Gorter, Avdic
GOALS: Jóhannsson 29.
BOOKINGS: Gouweleeuw 34, Wuytens 58.
ANZHI: Kerzhakov, Angbwa, Ewerton (Burmistrov 45), Gadzhibekov, Eschenko, Aliyev (Serderov 71), Mkrtchyan, Epureanu, Ahmedov, Smolov, Bukharov (Abdulavov 86).
SUBS NOT USED: Pomazan, Agalarov, Sobolev.
BOOKINGS: Ewerton 20, Ahmedov 66, Epureanu 74.
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