Due to the three-pointer on the number six of the ranking, AZ is level with FC Twente, which lost a certain 3-0 lead against PSV (3-3). However, the Alkmaarders have a significantly better goal difference than the Tukkers: plus 22 versus plus 11.
RETURN MIDDLE J
AZ started for the first time since the home win against Feyenoord (February 27) with Fredrik Midtsjø in the base. Without the Norwegian midfielder, the Alkmaar formation went through a scant series, including defeats against Ajax, Bodø/Glimt and FC Twente. AZ apparently does not have an adequate replacement on the bench for Midtsjø.
Surprisingly, the starting position of Sam Beukema, who seems to be quietly preferred over Pantelis Hatzidiakos. The center defender made his basic debut for AZ in the Eredivisie before the winter break in the away match at Vitesse (0-0), after his transfer from Go Ahead Eagles last summer.
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AZ had trouble keeping the ball in Vitesse’s half in the first half. Many AZ players lost the ball too easily, while the Vitesse players were short. The first achievement of the match came from Vitessenaar Danilho Doekhi, who headed a free kick by Maxi Wittek past. AZ had been warned.
Beukema then showed why he increasingly enjoys the confidence of his coach Pascal Jansen. The center defender is a shrewd player from an attacking point of view and was almost successful from a scrimmage of the first AZ corner by Jesper Karlsson with a heel. Not much later, he let a cross from Karlsson again slide right past Jeroen Houwen’s goal.
Both teams had good chances before half time. Vitesse striker Adrian Grbic tapped a fine pass from Doekhi to Wittek in one go, but the German didn’t know what to do with the bouncing ball and aimed wide. On the other side, Romaric Yapi let a pass from Beukema in the direction of Jesper Karlsson run very easily. That levity was immediately punished.
Because where Yapi thought the ball would roll over the back line, Jesper Karlsson managed to keep the ball in and play Vangelis Pavlidis in. The Greek shielded the ball well from his guard Doekhi, cleverly turned away with Riechedly Bazoer and Jacob Rasmussen to pass Houwen.
It was already Pavlidis’ eleventh Eredivisie goal in the AZ shirt and his eighteenth in all competitions. His ninth assist for Karlsson, who was allowed to fill in for Sweden this week together with his idol Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The Scandinavian showman was part of the basis of the 2-0 for AZ in the 56th minute. The ‘overlap’ with Owen Wijndal who failed so often in the first half was one out of the book. The hard and low cross from the left back also: Pavlidis gratefully tapped his second of the evening into the ropes. It was also his ninth assist for Wijndal.
ARNHEM AIR FORCE
Vitesse’s resistance seemed broken, but nothing could be further from the truth. How different from a standard situation, the guests made the connecting goal: from the scrimmage of a Vitesse corner, Sondre Tronstad scored the 2-1 after more than an hour, after Beukema had let Rasmussen trump himself in the air.
Ten minutes later, Loïs Openda was even close to the equalizer on the next Arnhem corner, but his shot was nicely parried by Peter Vindahl. In the meantime, the tired Midtsjø had been replaced by Tijjani Reijnders by Jansen.
Vitesse smelled blood, but it was AZ that scored from a penalty by Karlsson, who has never missed a knock for AZ. The penalty was decorated by Pavlidis, who skilfully jumped into the air when Bazoer wanted to clear the ball. Instead of hitting the ball, he hit the AZ striker. The moment had been preceded by the most beautiful attack of the evening.
In an all-or-nothing final phase, Vitesse was close to a second goal a few more times, but Openda was unlucky to have his shot hit the post and Vindahl took a deflected shot from Bazoer with a cat-like reflex from the left corner.
View the program and the position in the Eredivisie here