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UEFA Europa League
April 3, 2014
• 3:05 PM
• AFAS Stadion, Alkmaar
Referee: S. Moen
• Attendance: 16906
E. Salvio 48'
That's it from me, Harry Slavin. Remember, the second legs are next week so be sure to tune in then for more Europa League action. Until then though, bye for now!
FULL-TIME: AZ 0-1 BENFICA. It wasn't pretty, but Jorge Jesus and his side won't care. Salvio's goal at the beginning of the second half is all that separates these sides bu it puts the Portuguese firmly in the driving seat. AZ put up a fight for the entire 90 minutes, but they face an uphill struggle at the Stadium of Light next week.
90' + 5'
Yellow CardMaxi Pereira
90' + 3'
Salvio kicks the ball away and stops AZ from taking a free kick quickly. The defender is booked and things almost go from bad to worse for Benfica as Artur makes a hash of the cross and drops it at the feet of an AZ player. Thankfully for the keeper though the eventual shot is blocked and the visitors clear.
90' + 2'
Yellow CardToto Salvio
90' + 1'
Beerens almost lays on the equaliser! Another immaculately timed run on the left sees the winger spring clear and his cut back is pretty decent too. It finds Johannsson but the striker takes a swipe at fresh air and the chance evaporates. That was their moment.
Yellow CardGuilherme Siqueira
A late booking for Siqueira for time wasting. He was taking too long with a throw in for the AZ fans liking and the referee agrees.
AZ are trying to Beerens on the ball. They move the ball down the left and Gudmundsson tries to get past Salvio but the Benfica full-back does well and shields the ball before setting up Luisao to clear.
We are into the final five minutes. AZ haven't showed many signs of launching that all out assault on the Benfica goal there fans would be expecting. They need something here as I can't see them getting any joy in Lisbon.
Maxi Pereira gets too tight to Beerens and brings the winger down. It gives the hosts a free kick in a dangerous position, but the free kick is cleared by the first man.
Almost 2-0 for Benfica and that would have been curtains! Lima gets across his man at a corner to flick the ball goalwards but Esteban is alert and gets a strong hand to the ball. AZ still in this one, just.
Gudelj was actually injured after that latest challenge, as Johannsson's tackle sent Alemida careering into the midfielder. He's unable to continue and is replaced by Henriksen for the last 10 minutes.
Yellow CardMattias Johansson
Mattias Johannsson is the first AZ player in the book this evening as he comes through the back of Almeida. It seems it may have been in retaliation after the Benfica sub had made a challenge moments earlier.
A final substitution for Benfica as Markovic comes on the for the final stages. Off comes Rodrigo, who like Cardozo, has been largely disappointing tonight.
Benfica are just beginning to sit back and allow the hosts to do all the attacking. AZ are accepting that invitation at the moment but they need to be careful they aren't caught on the counter. The Portuguese are dangerous on the break.
Just over 15 minutes left to play in this one. AZ were underdogs going into this one and they'll most likely be written off completely unless they can find away back into this now. Can they find something to take to Lisbon?
Beerens hasn't quite had the same impact on the match this second half as he did on the first, but he's in the thick of the action here. A smart ball down the left opens things up for the hosts and Beerens cuts in off the flank again, this time pulling his effort wide of the near post.
Rodrigo caught that! The striker picks up the ball around 25-yards from goal and cracks a shot goalwards that whistles just wide of Esteban's near post. If that's on target, I'm not sure the keeper is getting there you know.
Berghuis catches Siqueira and concedes a free kick inside the AZ half. The visitors are just beginning to take the sting out of the game and more and more niggling free kicks are cropping up.
A second change for the visitors as the ineffective Cardozo come off. He could have had two or three goals to his name on another night. Lima is on in his place.
My Dutch isn't great but I can guarantee you there were a few cries of 'not there!' from the AZ fans just now. Beerens tries to play his way out of his own half but gets caught in position by Salvio. The full-back finds Rodrigo but luckily for the home side - and Beerens - the former Bolton man can only force a throw.
Yellow CardN. Gaitán
Yellow cards don't come more blatant than this. Some lovely skill from Beerens - not for the first time tonight- sees the AZ man beat two red shirts in the midfield but Gaitan ensures he goes no further by bringing him down from behind.
The AZ keeper is being given a lot more to deal with in this half and he doesn't look quite as comfortable. He comes out and decides to punch once more, the ball barely clearing his own box this time. That will only boost Benfica's confidence on the attack.
Another chance for the Benfica as they look to really turn the screw. Garay rises to meet Gaitan's corner but Rodrigo fails to divert the ball into the net from inside the six-yard-box - the ball bobbling off his foot and over the bar.
Esteban gives himself a bit too much to do here. He comes to meet Gaitan's cross but he gets nowhere near it. He has to scramble back and ends up making a cracking stop from Cardozo. A needless bit of angst for the home defence though.
Big chance for AZ to respond immediately but Elm's header is straight at Artur. Jorge Jesus is so disgusted with his defence that his chewing gum is dislodged from his jaw.
I don't think Dick Advocaat could have dreamt up a worse start to the second period. That's the first goal AZ have conceded against Portuguese opposition in four matches.
AZ make a change as the Icelandic winger Gudmundsson comes on. A little strange the substitution wasn't made at the break. Nevertheless it's made now.
GOOAAALLL!!! DISASTER FOR AZ!!! A slip from Viergever thrusts the AZ doors right open and Benfica stroll right through and into the lead. Cardozo pounces on the mistake and although his initial effort is saved well by Esteban, Salvio follows up to knock into the empty net. Advantage Benfica.
AZ get us back underway. They'll be looking to start the second half in the same vain they began the first.
The sides are both back out at the AFAS Stadion. Will we see the deadlock broken in the second half? We're about to find out!
AZ are unbeaten in the Europa League this season and they've given a good account of themselves this season. Their domestic form this season has been far from spectacular - they currently sit 7th in the Eredivisie - but they look like they could give any side a game in Europe at the moment.
HALF-TIME: AZ 0-0 BENFICA. Goalless at the break but this game has had it's fair share of chances. AZ started strongly and should have been ahead when Johannsson was released. The Portuguese league leaders have retaliated with chances of their own but as it is, neither side has been able to break the deadlock.
45' + 1'
A late showing from the hosts as Berghuis cuts in onto his left foot and tests Artur at his near post. A frantic finish to the half!
Rodrigo ploughs down the left and gets to the bye-line. His cut back is well intercepted by Viergever though, and it needed to be - Cardozo was ready to lash home if he hadn't.
Still the visitors can't hit the target! Salvio shows a nice touch in the area to control Gaitan's cross but Rodrigo steal it off his toes and volleys over. Benfica just beginning to strengthen their grasp on proceedings now.
Siqueira gets forward to join the Benfica attack. He's picked out on the left wing and has a pop at goal, but he snatches at it and it flies over Esteban's crossbar.
It doesn't look good at all. Ruben Amorim is in tears as he leaves the pitch. It looks like it could be a problem with his knee. Let's hope it isn't as serious as it looks. Almeida is on for Benfica in his place.
Hmm, that doesn't look too clever. Ruben Amorim goes down with no one around him and looks in some pain. He's lying on the turf and looks in agony. Concerned faces amongst his team-mates.
AZ are still looking the stronger the middle of the park. Elm has been impressive so far in breaking up Benfica play and the Portuguese have been largely frustrated in their efforts so far.
That's the liveliest Benfica have looked so far. They've defintetly got the pace and guile to hurt the Dutch side but we just haven't seen enough of it so far.
Big chance for Benfica! The visitors work the ball well through the midfield and Rodrigo does well to look up and pick out Andre Gomes at the other side of the box. He lays the ball into the midfielder's path but his shot is blocked. He really should have done better there.
Just approaching the half hour mark and I think Advocaat will be pretty satisfied with the way things have gone so far. Benfica have yet to test Esteban in the AZ goal and Artur has certainly been the busier of the two custodians.
Esteban comes racing out of his box to clear the ball. It's well spotted by the keeper to come off his line but he almost undoes his good work with a woeful clearance. Luckily the loose ball catches Andre Gomes off guard and he doesn't have time to take a shot with the AZ goalkeeper miles out of his goal.
Jorge Jesus is nagging the linesman, although I'm not quite sure why. He may have plenty to say but I think he should be directing most of it at his players. Despite being favourites for this tie they've been very much second best so far.
Smart work from Rodrigo. The former Bolton man turns Ortiz in the centre circle, leaving the AZ man for dead. He drives through the Dutch side's half but ruins his good work with a shot that sails harmlessly over the bar.
Artur force into another fine stop! Berghuis is well outside the box but his shot has plenty of pace and power. The Benfica keeper is across quickly to palm the ball away and keep the game scoreless. AZ looking the more likely at the moment.
Big chance for Johannsson! Benfica misjudge their offside trap and Beerens times his through ball for the striker perfectly. He's through one-on-one but is denied by a great stop by Artur. The best chance of the evening so far.
A real sloppy few minutes for the home side. They play the ball far too casually out of defence and end up giving the ball away two or three times. Benfica can't quite find the final ball to punish their opponents though, a missed opportunity.
The home side have definitely settled quicker at the AFAS Stadion and are enjoying the lion's share of possession in these opening period. Some good movement out wide, especially from Beerens, is giving the visitors plenty to ponder.
Beerens picks up the ball on the left once more and swings in a cross but Luisao rises to meet the ball and head it away. Johannsson might struggle in the air against Benfica's centre-backs this evening. They're both beasts in the air.
AZ are doing a better job at the moment of keeping the ball. Some patient build up creates an opening for Johannsson but the striker blasts his effort wide of the target.
Another corner for the visitors and Gaitan takes over duties this time. His outswinger zips through the penalty area though as no one is able to get any contact on the ball.
Benfica respond to the early AZ pressure and pick up a couple of corners. The deliveries aren't the best and the AZ defence get up each time to clear the ball to safety.
Beerens is looking very lively this evening! The winger cuts in off the left flank and swings in a dangerous ball with his right boot. It only needs a touch but Gudelj appears to duck under it and the ball runs out for a goal kick.
Beerens finds a bit of space outside the Benfica area and lets fly with the opening effort of the evening. Artur is alert in goal though and gets behind the shot.
Benfica get us underway!
The sides are both out at the AFAS Stadion. We are about to get underway!
These sides have never met before in European competitons so both are entering unchartered territory this evening. AZ have kept cleansheets in all four of their last encounters with Portuguese teams. Another tonight would not go a miss for Advocaat's men.
Benfica have to make do without the suspended Perez but do start with Artur in goals, despite the keeper struggling with a shoulder injury. AZ are missing defender Wuytens after he picked up a suspension in the last round against Anzhi.
BENFICA XI: (4-3-3) Artur; Maxi Pereira, Luisao, Garay, Siqueira; Salvio, Ruben Amorim, Gaitan; Andre Gomes, Cardozo, Rodrigo.
AZ ALKMAAR XI: (4-3-3) Esteban; Johansson, Gouweleeuw, Viergever, Poulsen; Gudelj, Ortiz, Elm; Berghuis, Johannsson, Beerens.
We are only about 15 mins or so from kick off so let's get the team news up. We'll start with the home side.
AZ may go into tonight's match as underdogs but they do possess the only manager left in the competition to have led a side to the trophy. Dick Advocaat was in charge of Zenit St Petersburg when the Russian side beat Rangers in Manchester back in 2008. Can he work some of his magic this season?
Benfica boss Jorge Jesus brings his side to the Netherlands in good form, after dispatching Tottenham in the last round. The Eagles haven't lost to a Dutch opponent in their previous nine outings in all competitions. A positive result tonight would put them firmly in the driving seat for this tie, you have to feel.
We are down to the last eight in the Europa League and tonight the first-leg action kicks off in the Netherlands where AZ entertain last year's beaten finalists Benfica. I'm Harry Slavin and I'll be here to take you through all the action from the AFAS Stadion.
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