Thursday 3rd April 2014
AZ ALKMAAR 0-1 BENFICA
AZ resiliently battled Portuguese giants Benfica but lost by the single goal in the first leg clash of their last 8 Europa League tie.
The Dutch began the game as outsiders but the first 45 minutes saw AZ create the greater amount of chances and enjoying the majority of play. Wingers Roy Beerens and Steven Berghuis were the main threats with the former shooting narrowly wide after five minutes. The in-form Berghuis and his powerful long-range shooting called Benfica goalkeeper Artur into action twice but the stopper held firm and kept his clean sheet in tact.
After the goal-less first half, Benfica took the lead three minutes after the restart. AZ’s goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado rushed out to meet the ball at the feet of striker Oscar Cardozo. The Costa Rican diverted the Paraguayan’s effort away but it ended up landing perfectly for Argentine winger Eduardo Salvio to scissor-kick the ball into the net.
As Benfica had the advantage, the Portuguese looked likely to extend the score and but failed to do so. Cardozo was involved again and had an opportunity to bury AZ minutes later but he fluffed his lines and screwed his low drive wide.
AZ would hit on the break and midfielder Viktor Elm had a wonderful chance to level the game up but he headed tamely into Artur’s arms. However, it was end to end stuff as Rodrigo immediately went up the opposite end and in a horrendous miss, the striker stabbed Argentine defender Ezequiel Garay’s header high over the bar from yards out.
Looking tired as the time went on, Dick Advocaat’s side never managed to match the confidence they displayed in the opening half and only a fine double save from Esteban, denying substitute Lima and then André Gomes, prevented the tie to be over.
AZ now require a major upset in Lisbon if their European odyssey is to continue into the final four but holding this Benfica side down to just one goal must give them a slight glimmer of hope.
AZ: Esteban, Johansson, Gouweleeuw, Viergever, Poulsen (Gudmundsson 49), Gudelj (Henriksen 81), Ortiz, Elm, Berghuis, Jóhannsson, Beerens.
SUBS NOT USED: De Winter, Reijnen, Hoedt, Gorter, Avdic.
BOOKINGS: Johansson 78.
BENFICA: Artur, Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Siqueira, Salvio, Rúben Amorim (André Almeida 39), Gaitán, André Gomes, Cardozo, Rodrigo (Markovic 77).
SUBS NOT USED: Oblak, Jardel, Sulejmani, Djuričić, Lima.
GOALS: Salvio 48.
BOOKINGS: Gaitan 61, Siqueria 89, Salvio 90+2, Maxi Pereira 90+5.
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