AZ takes penalties better than Anderlecht and sits in last four Conference League

AZ takes penalties better than Anderlecht and sits in last four Conference League
AZ celebrates with supporters afterwards

NOS Football

AZ has cleverly managed to reach the semifinals of the Conference League. Anderlecht were beaten 2-0 in regular playing time and in the final penalty series, after extension, the Alkmaarers also drew the longest (4-1).

Jordy Clasie, Yukinari Sugawara, Tijjani Reijnders and Mexx Meerdink all capitalized on their penalties. For Anderlecht, Jan Vertonghen and Killian Sardella missed.

In the semi-final match, West Ham United or AA Gent will be the opponent next month.

Eighteen years ago

AZ is back in the semifinals of a European club tournament for the first time in eighteen years. In 2005, the Alkmaarers had one leg in the final of the then UEFA Cup, but coach Co Adriaanse’s team stranded in the semifinals against Sporting Portugal in extra time of the extension.

AZ’s mediocre showing of a week earlier has been completely forgotten. They lost 2-0 in Brussels and they had themselves to blame for that. The goal was clear Thursday night. At least two goals and preferably a bit fast.

Two goals AZ in first quarter

That task did not fall on deaf ears, as AZ put the fallen Belgian top club under pressure from the start. Anderlecht right back Michael Murillo made a mistake after just over three minutes by flooring the up and coming Milos Kerkez on the edge of the penalty area.

Referee Davide Massa put the ball on the spot and Vangelis Pavlidis shot via the inside of the post. Dutch Anderlecht goalkeeper Bart Verbruggen, watched in the stands by Dutch national team coach Ronald Koeman and goalkeeping coach Patrick Lodewijks, dived the other way.

It was the pitch start AZ was so hoping for, and it got even prettier. Within fifteen minutes, Pavlidis doubled the margin on a pass from Jens Odgaard. Much of the credit for the 2-0 could be given to Reijnders. He played Odgaard free with a sublime cross.

AZ is elated after Pavlidis’ 2-0 goal

The number ten of the Belgian league was on the verge of collapse. AZ, without injured star keeper Jesper Karlsson, kept Anderlecht afloat in the remainder of the first half by killing off numerous chances. In the final stages, the home team often lacked precision.

Pavlidis, who could and perhaps should have completed his hat-trick before halftime, dropped out midway through with an ankle injury and was replaced by Mayckel Lahdo. Partly with the Swede’s inspirations, AZ went in search of the desired third goal in the second half.

Suspension Kerkez

This went awkwardly at first, despite a preponderance. After an hour, Kerkez even received a yellow card, something the Hungarian could not use. The left back was ‘on edge’ and would miss the first semifinal.

Milos Kerkez

Anderlecht suddenly appeared near AZ goalkeeper Mathew Ryan shortly thereafter, but the Australian had an answer to Moussa N’Diaye’s effort. On the opposite side, Odgaard, after missing Verbruggen, headed over the goal.

The Alkmaar supporters got behind their heroes en masse once more, hoping to avoid an extension. Ex-Ajacied Vertonghen kept Reijnders from scoring, Kerkez hit the post with his right leg and Odgaard pounced on Verbruggen.


The extension still came and in it both teams failed to score. Anderlecht considered themselves lucky, but in the penalty kick sequence Ryan stopped the attempts of Vertonghen and Sardella.

AZ did not fail from the spot and substitute Meerdink fired in the decisive penalty. That led to huge scenes of joy.

Kayleigh Williams