JOHANNSSON STRIKES AGAIN TO LEAD AZ
AZ Alkmaar secured another victory thanks to Aron Johannsson but it didn't come easy for the Cheese Farmers although the opening five minutes would have led the visiting fans to think otherwise.
Just back from his first cap with the US National Team, Johannsson kept the momentum with this third goal of the season in the fourth minute of the game. After a cross from wide left into the box, Nemanja Gudelj brought the ball down brilliantly as a pair of markers gave him too much space. The Serbian slid the ball forward for his American colleague and the youngster lifted the ball over Jan Seda, who was shocked to see himself one-on-one with Johansson.
Waalwijk then had a pair of half chances off a pair of freekicks but both times Estaban Alvarado turned the efforts away from his goal. The home team was beginning to get into the game after the early shock and Romeo Castelen was looking particularly dangerous.
Gertjan Verbeek's side defended the half chances well and twenty minutes in were almost on the board again. This time Jeffrey Gouweleeuw played a give-and-go with Johann Berg Gudmundsson but the return ball was snuffed out by Frank van Mosselveld before the Dutch defender could pull the trigger from the top of the box.
Twenty-five minutes in and Roy Beerens puts a move on Waalwijk's #5, Remy Amieux on the wing and leaves the Frenchman dead in his tracks, then delivers a pinpoint cross onto the head of Viktor Elm, but the Swedish midfielder sends it wide of the target.
A half hour into the action and AZ wins a corner kick that Gudmundsson whips into the box only to see it headed away; but it only goes as far as the young American who slips, then recovers well enough to get a shot off from 20 yards out. His effort was deflected and ended up as a corner that was taken again by the Icelandic forward. This time Seda punches it and yet again the ball falls to Johansson but this time he is unable to shoot as the Waalwijk team closes him down.
The zippy little Romeo Castelen then grabs hold of the ball and dances around a trio of defenders but has to settle for a corner kick which the keeper punches out of harms way. AZ counters with Johannsson and Beerens on the attack but Frank van Mosselveld and Amieux defend well enough to keep their number one from having to make a save.
With ten minutes left in the half Amieux sends the ball up the wing to Aurelien Joachim and the Luxembourg international is fouled for a free kick just to the right of Alkmaar's 18 yard box. Castelen, who had been capped ten times by the Dutch national team, either shot or attempted to pass the ball but either way, it was a terrible effort and he ended up almost hitting a traveling fan in the seats behind the goal in the visitor's section.
Waalwijk were at it again a few minutes later; this time Damiano Schet and Joachim broke free but when the Luxemburger got into the box he and Mattias Johansson got their feet tangled together and both tumbled to the ground. Expecting a penalty, all the referee gave was a corner kick.
Deciding to get involved in attacking, the right back Johansson grabbed the ball in his defensive position, dribbled through three or four defenders and made his way down the center of the field. When he got within striking distance however, the last defender was a bit more stubborn than the others and the 21-year-old Swede could only muster a tame shot into the keeper's arms.
The second half started out with the home team more of the aggressors but when Robert Braber fed Castelen, the Suriname-born Dutchman decided to test his diving skills inside the box. The referee was not impressed and showed the striker what a yellow card looks like.
Nichael Lamey tried his luck for RKC from about 30 yards out but with nothing behind it, the keeper claimed easily. Then Schet had a half decent shot from just inside the box that Alvarado got his finger tips to and sent it over the cross bar.
AZ attacked in the 54th minute and Markus Henriksen shot with gusto from ten yards out but the Czech net minder stood tall and swatted it away like a pesky mosquito. Off the corner kick the Swedish Elm let loose from the edge of the box and the shot is deflected but fortunately for the home team it only bounces off the near post and then out for a goal kick.
In the middle of the park on the hour mark the young American advanced, beat a defender and picked out his strike partner but the ball goes out for a corner that comes to nothing.
Waalwijk were denied a chance to even the score when the pesky Castelen broke forward and saw the ball smack against the arm of Lamey inside the box. It seems that everybody in Mandemakers Stadion saw the contact except for the referee and his linesman who had a perfect view.
With 20 minutes left on the clock RKC had no intention of sharing the ball with their visitors and dominated possession but made nothing of it for the longest time. At this time the young American Johannsson came off the field and was replaced by Martens.
Castelen was at it again and this time ran around a defender and picked out Schet across the field. Shet however hit in on the volley but scraped the top of the crossbar instead of rippling the net.
Just seven minutes from full time Waalwijk finally did find the back of the net and it was courtesy of their big man, substitute Jean-David Beauguel. With Joachim on the left wing, he looks up and spots the Frenchman who holds off his defender and cooler than cool chips the ball over the Costa Rican keeper and spins off in celebration.
But the celebrations were short lived. The man who replaced his American colleague, Martens was picked out and the ball that came to him was hit on the volley and rocketed into the back of the net, giving Seda no chance at all.
RKC fought back in these dying minutes but the 84th minute goal, which came a minute after the equalizer was the nail in the coffin for Coach Erwin Koeman's men.
Yanks Abroad spoke to Aron Johannsson after the victory and he gave his views of what took place.
"It wasn't really the best game for us," the US Nat said. "I don't know; maybe we were a little bit tired. We didn't play really good but in the end it was about getting three points. We managed that so it shows that we're a strong team."
Regarding his goal he said, "I wasn't expecting (the ball) and maybe it wasn't the prettiest goal that I've ever scored in my life but it counts just like all the other ones."
Although the Cheese Farmers had a commendable first half, they did tail off after the intermission.
"I don't know what happened to us; they were a lot better in the second half. Maybe we were too happy with the lead and didn't do enough to kill off the game, to score the second goal."
"We gave them chances to come back and they finally took one of those chances and scored a goal. We were lucky to get the second goal; it was a great goal from Maarten Martens and we got the three points in the end of that's the most important thing."
With three goals in three games thus far, Johannsson will try to keep the streak alive when they travel to Utrecht next weekend. However, AZ will compete in Europe first in mid-week as they travel to Greece to face Atromitos.