AZ Alkmaar 3 v 1 ADO Den Haag
This game had to be one of the most important matches in ADO’s history. Victory in the AFAS Stadion would put ADO four points above AZ, and in a very strong position to qualify for the Europa League without having to go through the torturous play-off route. If ADO could get these three points, all they would need to do is win their next two matches, which are both to be played at home to get that dream European spot.
The atmosphere inside the stadium was electric, both sets of fans were boisterous and making so much noise it was incredible, a great environment in which to play football. As with the game against Vitesse last week, ADO looked disjointed across the midfield and AZ took the game to their visitors.
Early on the AZ pressure was relentless, waves of attacks forcing ADO on the back foot and into some desperate defending. AZ was making spaces for chances but not close to finishing one of their moves off. Two of their players were really taking it to ADO, Rasmus Elm and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
After fifteen minutes ADO unlucky streak of losing players for bans or injuries continued as Bosschaart was injured in a duel with AZ’s Charlison Benschop causing the ADO man to leave the field and be replaced by Pique.
It was not until the thirty sixth minute that any real goal scoring opportunity arose and that fell to ADO. Verhoek fed Buijs on the right. A cross deep into the penalty found Toornstra in plenty of space, but instead of letting the ball drop and take control, he lashed an instant left foot volley high over the bar.
The deadlock was broken in the forty third minute, when AZ played some wonderful fast flowing football. Sigthorsson was played into the left corner, his bal to Simon Poulson led to a quick one two with Brett Holman. Poulson’s ball into the middle of the box found Sigthorsson in acres of space, not an ADO player near him, allowing a simple side foot into the back of the net. Great play from AZ, very poor from ADO, 1-0.
The second half began in much the same way as the first, AZ being the more dominant in the centre of the field, but again not making their possession tell with clear cut sights on goal.
Defensive disaster struck ADO in the fifty ninth minute. A simple ball by Kum across the box to Derijck, who was not fully concentrating; he misjudged his first touch and allowed the ball to roll away from him, before he could react, Holman came storming in from behind, kept his nerve and slotted the ball under Coutinho, 2-0.
In the sixty second minute Ado was awarded a corner on the right, as it swung in Bulykin got a powerful well directed header downwards towards goals, only to see AZ’s Niklas Moisander clear the ball off the line with his shin. This chance saw a reignited ADO take control of the game for the first time and in the sixty seventh minute reaped a reward.
A free kick taken by Toornstra midway inside the AZ half saw his shot hit the defensive wall, Chaos ensued and ADO got to every loose ball first, Radosavljevic, Vicento, Bulykin and Buijs all making direct contributions as finally the ball looped up for Derijck to head the ball home, making up for his earlier nightmare, 2-1 and game on.
As play entered the final twenty minutes, AZ was awarded a free kick just outside the centre circle. The cross by Elm was floated towards the far post where Pontus Wernbloom leapt high and powered a header goalwards, only to see his effort cannon back off the cross bar.
In the seventy sixth minute ADO almost got back on level terms. A corner o the right was whipped in as Bulykin got across in front of his marker, his header was strong and directed to the top corner, only a magnificent flying one-handed reflex save by Sergio Romero preventing a goal, tremendous save.
As the clock ticked down, ADO was forcd to push up high and try to stretch the AZ defence. A dangerous game to play as AZ had showed often their quick counter attacking on the break. ADO had no other option though, they needed a goal to keep European dream alive.
AZ killed the game off with three minutes remaining. Yet again ADO pushed forward and this time AZ’s quick passing saw them concede a third goal. Holman on the left playing a ball into the centre of the pitch, just outside the area. Nick van der Velden had the easiest task to slip the ball into the back of the net, 3-1.
At the final whistle the stadium erupted and chanting from the home fans was all about they were going to qualify for Europe. Both sets of supporters had been amazing all night, credit to them all.
So as it now stands, ADO are in fifth place two points behind AZ with three games to play, of the two, ADO have the more difficult run in, especially with their next home game being against leaders FC Twente. Manager John van den Brom says that this game and the last home against Groningen are vital and both must be won to give ADO any hope of claiming an automatic European spot.
ADO man of the match: Toornsta, involved in and almost all of ADO’s best moves.