DAVID SMITH - Monday, March 5, 2012
Jozy Altidore continued his goalscoring run in Alkmaar's win over Heracles while Helmond managed to take down the Eerste Divisie leaders Zwolle despite Charles Kazlauskas' absence.
AZ Alkmaar 3 - 1 Heracles Almelo
Jozy Altidore continued to re-cement his spot in AZ's starting lineup, hitting what turned out to be the winning goal as they held for a victory over Heracles on Saturday despite playing most of the second half with just ten men on the field.
With recent starter Charlison Benschop still left out of the squad due to a thigh injury suffered two weeks before, Altidore was once again on the field from the get-go, and did not fail to build on his two-goal performance for AZ last weekend.
Heracles were close to jumping ahead in the tenth minute when Samuel Armenteros saw his low shot hit the left upright, however hosts were able to secure a two-goal lead before the halftime break.
They took the lead just past the half-hour when a corner from Maarten Martens was headed on by Rasmus Elm to the left side of the six-yard box, where Simon Poulsen was waiting to slam it emphatically high to the center of goal for 1-0.
Altidore added another score - his tenth of the season in league play - when he collected a pass from Brett Holman near the penalty spot with his back to goal, spun to his left and fired a low blast to the left side well out of Remko Pasveer's reach two minutes before the break.
Then seven minutes after the intermission, Adam Maher slipped through the Heracles central defense and pulled down a long pass from Nick Viergever, the proceeded to lob a high shot over Pasveer that bounced into goal for the 3-0 advantage.
Three minutes later, the guests were handed a lifeline when Viergever's obvious handball in the area saw the defender sent off and a penalty awarded to Heracles, which Willy Overtoom converted with a perfectly-placed spot kick to the upper left side.
Despite having a man-advantage on the field for the final 35 minutes, Heracles were entirely unable to even come close to chipping away at AZ's two-goal lead, with the referee's whistle finally confirming the win for the hosts.
The win, combined with Twente's blowout victory over PSV Eindhoven later on Sunday afternoon means that AZ finish the weekend's round of games back in the league lead, although this could change when Twente make up their game in hand on Wednesday.
AZ will be back on action on Thursday when they host Udinese in the final 16 of the Europa League, then hit the road three days later with a trip to De Graafschap in their continuing quest for the Eredivisie title.
Charles Kazlauskas sat out Helmond's 3-2 road victory over first-place Zwolle on Friday evening due to yellow card accumulation. Helmond's victory extended their unbeaten run to eight games and brought them to sixth place in the Eerste Divisie standings. They have a short break before hosting 11th-place Almere City FC on Monday evening.