DAVID SMITH - Thursday, January 19, 2012
Jozy Altidore was a late sub in AZ's rescheduled cup game with Ajax on Thursday, however the team's berth the quarterfinal was already sewn up thanks to a fine attacking display within the first hour.
Thanks to events occurring the first time these two teams attempted to contest this round of 16 game, Thursday's replay took place in front of a crowd of close to 23,000 children in Amsterdam, and the young audience bore witness to Ajax's first home loss to AZ in more than 30 years.
In a similar way to the interrupted game one month before, Ajax took an early lead; Danish phenom Christian Eriksen picked out Siem de Jong with a precise pass, and the 22 year-old Dutch international coolly put his shot past keeper Esteban Alvarado in the tenth minute
Charlison Benschop, who replaced Altidore in head coach Gertjan Verbeek's starting lineup, rewarded his coach's decision by setting up the equalizer 14 minutes later, as his cross found Maarten Martens at close range for an easy score.
Benschop then added a goal of his own in the 32nd minute, running onto a long through ball from Rasmus Elm and finding space to aim his shot past Ajax keeper Jasper Cillessen for the 2-1 AZ lead.
The lead lasted for just six minutes, as AZ captain Niklas Moisander's foul set up a free kick attempt by Eriksen, which was deflected by Alvarado to the left post, where de Jong was waiting to slot away.
While AZ came out of the halftime break with a noticeably dropped tempo, they were fortunate to find the winner in the 55th minute after Belgian center back Toby Alderweireld was judged to have handled in the area, with Elm sending Cillessen the wrong way with his low spot kick to the lower left corner.
Altidore entered the game with 12 minutes remaining, replacing afternoon hero Benschop, however the team was content to simply hold off the final charge from Ajax and celebrate their win after the final whistle.
The win sends AZ on to the quarterfinal round to take place on January 31, where they will face the lowest ranked team in the competition in third-tier GVVV.
Beforehand, Ajax will have the chance to avenge Thursday's loss as the two teams will face off again in league play on Sunday in AZ's AFAS Stadion.