ADO v AZ Alkmaar

ADO shock the reigning champions.

Last seasons 3-0 home victory over AZ was seen as one of those freaky one off silly results by many in Dutch football. Well lightening does indeed strike twice. AZ obviously do not like ADO’s new stadium and tonight was no accident. ADO out played, out fought and out worked the champions of Holland.

Before the kick off, a presentation of a framed ADO shirt was made to the purchaser of this season’s 5000th season ticket. Great news for the team financially as reported losses has been making news of late.

ADO kicked of the match and were up for the fight. Fours minutes in and Ditewig takes a free kick inside his own penalty area. Milic heads the ball on to Verhoek, who is has been left with all the freedom he needs. One on one with Sergio Romero in the AZ goal, Verhoek calmly dispatching the ball between the keepers legs into the back of the net. A superb start for the home team, 1-0.

Six minutes and AZ’s David Mendes Da Silva takes control of the ball in the centre of the park. A wonderful incisive cross field pass forward to Brett Holam who plays a quick one two with Jeremain Lens: his return pass is across the area and Holman’s outstretched boot just fails to make contact and grab an equalizer, a let off for ADO.

For fifteen minutes ADO simply dominated AZ in the midfield areas. If you were new to Dutch football and had to select which of these two teams were the reigning champions, there would have been no doubt of your choice. AZ had no passion about them whatsoever. ADO are looking strong through the whole spine of the team. I believe that this is happening due to confidence that Ditewig is inspiring from his defenders in front of him. At times ADO was playing magnificent one touch football to get them out of tricky situations, AZ was not getting a sniff of a chance.

Twenty one minutes in to the first half and AZ began to claw their way back in to the midfield battle. Mendes is becoming a pivot to AZ’s moves and his ball to an open and waiting Moussa Dembele is met with a ferocious drive from 27m out that smashes against the ADO crossbar, Ditewig was nowhere near to it. An excellent strike by the AZ forward. ADO again tries to play themselves out of their own half, this time an interception and some quick passing by the visitors finds Lens out wide on the left. His cross is hard and low and again Holman’s studs are just too short to get that vital touch to score, unlucky for Holman, who may now be considering getting some longer studs. Twice he has been millimeters of getting an equalizer.

Half an hour played and some ignites a spark inside Soltani. From a long kick by Ditewig, Milic uses his head to control the ball and lay it off to Knopper on the left wing; his cross in to the box is met by a quick shot from Soltani. Only desperate defending by AZ’s Ragnar Klavan who threw his body in front of the shot prevented a second ADO goal. AZ pump the ball forward trying to relieve the pressure: Ditewig returns the ball long up field. The defence misjudges the flight of the ball and it falls to the feet of Soltani. He looks up and strikes a curling shot from 22m just wide of the left hand upright. ADO are playing some very nice controlled and skillful football.

Forty minutes and again it is Soltani who shows his determination to get things done. He chases a lost cause ball into the corner, just managing to prevent a goal kick. The crowd roars its appreciation of his effort urging him on. He looks up and crosses to the far post where Milic comes through with a powerful header which flashes just wide of the post. From the resulting goal kick, a long punt forward goes out for a corner. AZ players come slowly forward, trying to gain respite from ADO’s onslaught, certainly in no rush to take it. Maarten Martens floats the corner in from the left with good pace and height. Klavan leaps well and heads the ball downward, only for Ammi to clear the ball off the goal line. Fortunately the clearance fell to his team mate Kum to put the ball out for another corner, this time on the right. This time the corner is wasted. The half time whistle blew and the crowd erupted. AZ players were not looking to happy with their lot as they left the playing area.

I can only imagine what Ronald Koeman’s team talk was like during the break, but I can be sure that his players’ ears were burning.  AZ started the second half with a lot more fire in their bellies and a need to get back in the game which was drifting away from them as the first half had gone on.

Fifty one minutes and AZ’s powerful Dembele makes a strong, surging run to the edge of the ADO penalty area. He plays an accurate pass to Martens, whose shot is weak but still caused Ditewig to make a nervy handling error, grabbing the ball at the second attempt as AZ forwards rushed in. This move finally wakes up the travelling support who had made the journey to support their team.

ADO take a deserved 2-0 lead on fifty four minutes. A long throw in by Buijs reaches the penalty box; Verhoek gets head to it and lays it to Immers who is standing on the penalty spot. In one lightning movement, he smashes the ball in to the back of the net. Romero stood no chance, a great finish.

AZ get a chance to get their way back in to the match. A corner on the left in floated in by Martens. It is met perfectly by Klavan, but the power he gets in to the ball sends it just over the top of the bar. AZ makes a substitution on seventy six minutes. Niklas Moisander is replaced by Rasmus Elm. This turns to be a great tactical move by Koeman. Instantly AZ improved as Elm, Dembele and Klavan start to take control of the midfield.

 AZ were now starting to keep possession and were dictating the pace of the game. A minute after coming on, Elm gets the ball on the right side of ADO’s penalty area. He plays the ball inside and Derijck intercepts the pass, only his clearance is weak and falls to a completely free Dembele, who for no reason panics and drags his shot wide of the right hand upright. That was golden opportunity to pull one back for the visitors.

On eight two minutes, an innocent coming together of Van Den Bergh and AZ’s Gill Swerts in the centre circle left the ADO player clutching his right ankle in agony. It looked serious, especially as he was eventually taken off by stretcher to warm applause from both sets of fans. After a delay of four minutes AZ took a free kick; ust have been one that they have been working on during training. Everybody was expecting a chip in to the area. The ball was instead played out wide to the right were Dembele was waiting unmarked. He turned and played the ball into the area. Lens was on the edge of the six yard box and a delicate back heeled flick saw the ball roll agonizingly slowly over the line past a horrified Ditewig, 2-1.

The referees assistant held up the board and it showed that four minutes of extra time were due to be played. Immers approached the crowd on the Midden Noord and gestured to them to get behind the team. The noise level was amazing. It was squeaky bum time as AZ huffed and puffed in the midfield, trying to find an opening, but the ADO defence was now shut up tight. As the time ticked down, the whole stadium, apart from the 150 so AZ supporters were clapping and singing Liberte’. Then the final whistle blew and the place erupted. You’d have thought by the reaction of the players and the fans that ADO had just been crowned European champions. Liberte’ boomed out of the speakers, the place was rocking. The players did a lap of honour and left the field to the sound of Gerry and the Pacemakers version of “You’ll never walk alone.”

Well I really hope some of you took the opportunity to attend this match. If you did, I bet you will be returning soon. If you didn’t, then you missed a great night of football. Get along to a home game when you can. ADO look to be making good progress under Atteveld, so go and support your local team.

Attendance 13,221

ADO man of the match; Soltani, fought for everything, great performance.

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