DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, February 28, 2012
A pair of Jozy Altidore goals was not enough to push Alkmaar past Heerenveen while Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond snatched a road draw a Den Bosch to maintain their undefeated 2012 record.
AZ Alkmaar 3 - 3 SC Heerenveen
Jozy Altidore returned to Alkmaar's starting lineup with aplomb on Sunday, notching a pair of goals as they drew with fellow title challengers Heerenveen.
With recent starter Charlison Benschop sidelined for a short time with injury, head coach Gertjan Verbeek turned to the American to lead the front line, and was rewarded shortly past the midway point of the first half.
In the 25th minute, Brett Holman slipped a short pass to Altidore at the top edge of the area, who deftly controlled the ball and quickly turned to fire a low blast to the left side of goal.
The visitors briefly equalized in the 57th minute when Filip Djuricic beat AZ keeper Esteban Alvarez with a low left-footed shot from outside the penalty area that slipped just under the keeper's reach, however Altidore restored the lead three minutes later.
Holman was once again the set-up man, receiving the ball on the run in the left side, the dropping a pass back to the US international just beyond the penalty spot for a blast that flew just inside the right upright.
Despite AZ pouring on the pressure in an attempt to further increase their lead, Heerenveen again pulled even in the 76th on a defensive miscue, with Bas Dost rising to deflect in a botched clearance just before Alvarez could punch the ball away.
Heerenveen looked to have found the winner with nine minutes remaining, with Alvarez again the culprit. The Costa Rican's low clearance rebounded off of Dost, who managed to then feed Luciano Narsingh as he rushed into the area, with the Dutch youth international finally chipping Alvarez for the 3-2 lead.
Their hopes of stealing all three points away from home only lasted for one minute, with Erik Falkenburg saving the team blushes when he rushed in to slam home Holman's cross for the final 3-3 scoreline.
Combined with leaders PSV's win earlier in the day, AZ fall two points off the pace, where they lead third-place Twente by a single point. They will return to action on Saturday when they host tenth-place Heracles.
FC Den Bosch 0 - 0 Helmond Sport
Charles Kazlauskas played the full 90 minutes in his typical right midfield role for Helmond Sport on Friday, however a stale performance on both side of the ball saw the team pull even in a goalless draw at Den Bosch.
A sloppy performance by both teams saw whatever few chances they could muster go awry, with Helmond's best chances throughout the 90 minutes coming in dead ball situations.
The best of these came ten minutes before the final whistle when Sebastian Stachnik headed a corner from Jop van der Linden off the woodwork, however the hosts were closest in the final moments with a barrage of ultimately unsuccessful corners.
Kazlauskas was shown a yellow card, his sixth of the season, in the final moments of the game for what the referee perceived to be dive.
Following the weekend's round of games and a number of additional make-up games from other teams, Helmond are in fourth place in the third-period standings, and seventh in overall. They next pay a visit to division leaders Zwolle on Friday.