AZ youth team strongest in Europe after fine 5-0 win in Youth League final
AZ has become, as the first Dutch club ever, winner of the UEFA Youth League. The AZ under-19 talents were too strong for Hajduk Split 5-0 in the final in Geneva.
Jayden Addai, Ernest Poku (twice) and Mexx Meerdink (twice) scored the goals for AZ, under the watchful eye of a large number of soccer stars including national coach Ronald Koeman, his colleagues Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martínez, Luís Figo, Fabio Capello and Rudi Völler.
The Youth League can best be described as a kind of Champions League for youth teams in terms of format and status. The Alkmaarders beat teams such as Eintracht Frankfurt (5-0), FC Barcelona (3-0) and Real Madrid (4-0) earlier in the tournament.
During the final tournament in Switzerland last Friday, the AZ talents won from Sporting Portugal in the semifinals after penalty kicks.
AZ was the superior side before halftime and took the Croatian goal under fire frequently. After two minutes, Jayden Addai delivered a thunderous shot, which was boxed out of the goal by goalkeeper Borna Buljan.
It was far from Addai’s only attempt: he fired two more dangerous shots from distance and after more than 15 minutes worked the ball from a deflected corner into the right corner, where the Croatian goalkeeper saved again. Ernest Poku and Fedde de Jong were also close to a goal.
AZ had little to fear from Hadjuk Split, which had been too strong for AC Milan in the other semifinal, before halftime, except for a shot by Simun Hrgovic that was saved by goalkeeper Rome-Jayden Owusu-Oduro.
More threatening were the thousands of Croatian fans behind one of the goals. The Hajduk supporters had traveled en masse to Geneva, in the absence of the first team’s European matches, and provided plenty of atmosphere and fireworks in the otherwise moderately occupied stadium.
The deserved lead for AZ came just before halftime. Luka Vuskovic, Hadjuk’s 16-year-old super talent, brought down Poku with an unnecessary slide and the ball went to the spot. Addai took the penalty, although the excellent goalkeeper Buljan almost got his hand on the ball.
In the second half, AZ brought Mexx Meerdink into the team. It was uncertain whether 19-year-old striker would be able to be in action, after he substituted for AZ’s main team in Sunday’s game with RKC Waalwijk and promptly suffered an injury. But Meerdink, already good for seven goals in the Youth League, proved fit enough to fill in.
The Croatians drew from a different keg after halftime, with many hard fouls but also dangerous moments in front of the AZ goal. American youth international Rokas Pukstas shot the ball out of a promising position and AZ goalkeeper Owusu-Oduro cleverly tapped the ball out of the crossbar after a hard shot by Mate Antunovic.
But then the word was Poku’s. In the 70th minute, the 19-year-old striker shot the ball low into the far corner with a bounce, unstoppable for goalkeeper Buljan. Six minutes later it was another hit, after good cross work by Dave Kwakman and a fine one-two with Meerdink.
The final chord was then for Meerdink: three minutes after the 3-0 he shot the ball high into the goal after a nice action and three minutes before time Meerdink was the end of a well played attack for the 5-0.