MICHAEL HADLEY - Friday, August 24, 2012
Four Americans began their Europa League playoff round sets on Thursday with varying degrees of success.
Anzhi Makhachkala 1 - 0 AZ Alkmaar
Jozy Altidore was held silent in a full 90-minute effort as his Dutch squad AZ fell to Anzhi in Russia.
Despite four goals in two Eredivisie matches, the young American striker was never able to get rolling in the away defeat.
Anzhi had the majority of the chances in the first half, playing in front of a small crowd made up nearly entirely of ultras.
After going scoreless into the locker room, the hosts quickly put themselves ahead in the second period.
Lacina Traore collected a pass from the right flank and easily tapped in the loose ball at the far post. After his second goal in three games this season, the ultras celebrated by raining down flares from their post behind the goal, an unfortunate theme for the European action midweek.
AZ weren't without their opportunities, though. In the 75th minute, the visitors came as close as they would all night when Viktor Elm slammed a header the crossbar from a corner kick.
The Dutch will face Heerenveen who currently reside at the bottom of the Eredivisie standings over the weekend before hosting Anzhi who will take on FC Mordovia in the Russian Premier League.
Molde 2 - 0 Heerenveen
In his return from a leg injury, Josh Gatt and Molde were able to overcome Hereenveen in their home leg of the playoff round.
Molde controlled the majority of possession early, forcing Hereenveen into a defensive mindset, but it took the hosts over one half hour to put themselves in front.
Daniel Chima found a way to the touchline, and after some impressive technical skill to beat his defender the Nigerian centered a pass that Jo Berget tapped expertly toward Magnus Eikrem. The Norwegian made no mistake from there, going over and beyond Kristoffer Nordfeldt for the opening tally.
Into the second half, Heerenveen began to open up play much more. Halftime substitute Arsenio Valpoort had two separate headed shots come misfire. The first barely glanced over the crossbar while the second was a wide-open attempt that the Dutchman simply misplayed, missing the ball entirely.
While it appeared Heerenveen would escape with only a single goal allowed, their luck would run our just moments before the final whistle. After a dangerous back pass at Nordfeldt did he best to clear the danger. But his defenders let him down with even sloppier passing, and Mattias Mostrom easily went around him for the second goal of the match.
Gatt played 82 minutes and seemed timid at times to join the attack full-force. His last match was over one month ago, a 2-1 defeat to Viking where he scored almost immediately after subbing on at halftime.
Legia Warsaw 1 - 1 Rosenborg
Mixx Diskerud also returned from injury for his European club as Rosenborg drew with Legia Warsaw in Poland on Thursday.
Neither team looked to play shyly in the opening minutes of the game. After a Warsaw free kick slid dangerously close in the first few moments, a Rosenborg attempt was parried away from danger.
Play seemed to be nearing a goal for each side but the home fans would be forced to wait until the 42nd minute for their side to tally.
Following some beautiful passing by the Poles, Miroslav Radovic toe-poked a pass to the wide-open Jakub Kosecki who brilliantly curled a shot around Daniel Orlund to set the first half score at 1-0 for the hosts.
More close action followed in the second half, with Legia Warsaw again finding crossbar instead of nylon. Rosenborg were forced back defensively for the early moments, but eventually found their offensive stride.
By the 80th minute, the Norwegian patience paid off. Borek Dockal managed to steady a loose ball and hit a shot from the top of the 18-yard box. The attempt had eyes for the net as it slipped beyond Dusan Kuciak for the tying goal.
Diskerud played all 90 minutes in the draw and will be called upon in Norway to help secure victory for his club in a week's time.
Slask Wroclaw 3 - 5 Hannover 96
In what was by far the most goal-laden clash of the evening, defender Steve Cherundolo's Hannover 96 returned from Poland with a victory.
The American had an important roll to play in the match, including the opening goal in the seventh minute. After beating his defender on the overlapping run, Cherundolo perfectly slotted a pass to Leon Andreasen who opened the scoring with a nifty shot far post.
Slask Wroclaw nearly answered just moments later when Waldemar Sobota fired from long range. His effort went by just out of harm's way, but the offensive battle was already well underway.
In the 25th minute it was again Hannover, this time with the left fullback Christian Pander assisting from his flank. Jan Schlaudraff firing a shot from the top of the penalty box beyond a sprawling Rafal Gikiewicz.
But the hosts weren't going to go down without a fight. Ten minutes after Schlaudraff's goal, Thomasz Jodlowiec chested down a corner kick at the penalty spot. All alone he was able to collect and hit a shot that glanced off Ron-Robert Zieler's glove and into the net.
Six minutes following the Slask Wroclaw goal, Schlaudraff and Lars Stindl crafted a beautiful display of 1-2 passing at the top of the Polish box, resulting Stindl's shot and goal past Gikiewicz at the far post.
Didier Yan Konan almost gave Hannover a 4-1 lead in the waning moments of the first half, but Gikiewicz corralled his breakaway attempt with relative ease.
Seemingly content to hold their 3-1 lead, Hannover's complacency nearly got the better of them. Nine minutes into the second half, substitute Sylwester Patejuk made a crafty run down the left side of the Hannover defense before beating Zieler to his far post.
More of the same sloppy defending for Hannover allowed Przemyslaw Kazmierczak to wiggle free on a corner kick, and his forehead did the rest. A perfectly placed far post upper-90 header brought the game even at three with one half hour remaining.
After twenty minutes of nervous soccer, a Polish handball was called 27 yards from the frame. Andreasen stood over the ball and hit an unencumbered knuckler off the inside of the post and across the goal line.
The golazo would give Hannover the lead for good, but the Germans weren't done there.
Sixty-sixth minute substitute Manuel Schmiedebach had his own 1-2 passing stanza with fellow second half substitute Artur Sobiech. Using the outside of his foot, Schmiedebach curled a close-range shot around Gikiewicz to set the final score at 5-3 in favor of Hannover.
Cherundolo played in all 90 minutes of the victory, the third consecutive full match performance in the Europa League from the captain.
Terrence Boyd came off the bench for Rapid Vienna against PAOK, playing eight minutes and making no impact on the match. Prior to the start in Greece, the two fan bases exchanged violent attacks consisting of flares and fireworks. Police struggled to get the groups to return to their sections, though no one was seriously injured in the violence.