RECAP: WEEKEND DUTCH ACTION
Jozy Altidore netted his 18th league goal of the season while Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond lost more ground in their fight for the Eerste Divisie top spot with a road loss to Cambuur Leeuwarden.
AZ Alkmaar 2 - 3 Ajax Amsterdam
Jozy Altidore's 18th league goal of the season wasn't enough to bring AZ back from a two-goal deficit, as a loss to Ajax left the team still dangerously close to the top zone.
Ajax needed only 20 minutes to open the scoring when Siem de Jong ran onto a perfect through-ball from Toby Alderweireld and smashed it home with a powerful one-timed shot, then Daley Blind doubled the lead two minutes with a low blast from the top edge of the area.
AZ winger Markus Henriksen cut the lead to one goal in the 47th minute with a timely header on a poorly cleared corner, but de Jong restored the lead 12 minutes later with a deflected free kick that left keeper Esteban Alvarado powerless.
Altidore then gave AZ hope in the 74th minute when he made a long run into the box thanks to a fine pass from Adam Maher, and hit his low shot off the fingertips of Kenneth Vermeer and over the line.
The hosts put up as much of a fight as they could in the final quarter-hour in search of an equalizer, but couldn't break through the resolute Ajax defense and slumped to the loss.
AZ have a one-point cushion keeping them above the relegation places. They have a two-week break before returning to action with a trip to Heracles Almelo on Sunday, March 31.
Cambuur-Leeuwarden 2 - 0 Helmond Sport
Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond returned from their trip to Leeuwarden empty-handed, letting in a pair of goals to slip farther from an automatic promotion spot.
Despite Helmond dominating the first half-hour of play, Cambuur was lethal on their first chance after 35 minutes. Their first real foray towards the Helmond goal led to a corner kick, and Michael Hemmen found space to outleap his defender and head in the 1-0 lead.
Helmond increasingly pushed for an equalizer as the game wore on, but were forced to ultimately pay for their forward push when a 90th-minute counter ended with Melvin De Leeuw putting away his shot for the 2-0 win.
The result drops Helmond into fourth place, now four points off of the lone automatic promotion spot awaiting the Eerste Divisie winner. They will be back in action in two weeks when they host FC Eindhoven.