An eighth-minute strike from Kenneth Perez proved
decisive as AZ Alkmaar edged past Villarreal CF and into the UEFA
their progress to the
The Danish midfield player
struck a crisp drive low to the goalkeeper's right to make it 3-1 on
aggregate. Villarreal pulled a goal back through Luciano Figueroa
with 18 minutes remaining and Juan Román Riquelme saw his wonderful
curling free-kick come back off the inside of the post six minutes
later, but a second goal proved elusive for the visitors in a match
that both sides finished with ten men.
Alkmaar took a narrow
lead into the game after a late strike from Robin Nelisse sealed a
hard-fought 2-1 victory in Spain last week but despite Joris
Mathijsen's return from injury, Co Adriaanse's side surprisingly
adopted an attacking 3-4-3 formation at kick-off.
The decision almost backfired
after just seven minutes, however, when Lucho ghosted behind a
static Alkmaar back line to meet Riquelme's arcing free-kick.
However, with the goalkeeper stranded, the Argentinian striker
blazed over the crossbar - and less than a minute later, Perez made
it 3-1 on aggregate.
The goal did nothing to
dampen Alkmaar's attacking enthusiasm, but they were forced to
rearrange on 21 minutes when Opdam saw yellow for the second time in
as many minutes for a foul on José Mari Romero. The striker soon
joined him in being dismissed after kicking out at Barry van Galen
while lying on the floor.
Although Lucho tested
Henk Timmer, it was Alkmaar who adapted quicker, with players taking
it in turns to defend and attack at will. As if to exemplify this,
Perez tracked back to deflect Armando Sá's shot from eight metres
into the arms of goalkeeper Timmer.
out for the second half a few minutes after Alkmaar, but whatever
Manuel Luis Pellegrini said to his side it had the desired effect as
Román went close before almost forcing Olaf Lindenbergh into an own
goal within minutes of the restart. When the last surviving UEFA
Intertoto Cup winners did eventually make the breakthrough, it was
inevitably the Argentinian playmaker who created the tap-in for
Román hit the post and
Armando Sá then blazed over with two minutes remaining but Alkmaar
held on and will now line up against Sporting Clube de Portugal in
the last four.