Jozy Altidore helped in a big way as his side grabbed a two-goal advantage in the first leg against Udinese.AZ Alkmaar will take a clear advantage into the return leg of its last 16 Europa League encounter with Udinese after a 2-0 victory at AFAS Stadion, thanks to strikes from Marten Maartens and Erik Falkenburg.
The result was a suitable reflection of the balance of the game, as the home side consistently threatened Udinese’s goal.
Alkmaar displayed its intent from the kickoff as fullback Simon Poulsen looked to continually provide an outlet for his side and Udinese failed to establish itself early on. The home supporters were vibrant, cheering on their side and hoping they could build a positive advantage in the first leg of the tie.
The first strike of the match came from Rasmus Elm, who brought a fine save out of visiting custodian Samir Handanovic following a neat interchange with forward Jozy Altidore. Udinese missed the dynamic Di Natale’s presence as the veteran started the match from the bench, with Serie A firmly in mind.
His replacement, Antonio Floro Flores, looked relatively lively in the early stages but was starved of service and support from his teammates, who defended resiliently during the opening half.
As the second half wore on, the visitors began to open up and gradually contribute offensively, with auxiliary forward Pablo Armero looking to support Floro Flores in more dangerous areas.
The second half saw Udinese demonstrate some neat passing, sensing an opportunity to take advantage of AZ’s inability to score. But the team's impressive resolve came unstuck just after the hour mark as dominant forward Altidore checked his run superbly to cross in for Maartens to plant home a reaction header and send the home supporters into raptures.
The goal helped the tie as Udinese found itself in a position where the team now had to take the game to its opponents. Far from sitting back, Alkmaar continued to attack and looked to double the advantage.
As the final 10 minutes of the match progressed, both sides went for the pivotal next goal and the home side struck following more fine play from Altidore. The big, bustling forward played a smart one two and placed a dangerous cross with substitute Falkenburg waiting to complete the simplest of finishes to double his side’s lead.
It could have been even worse for Udinese as keeper Handanovic produced a fingertip stop to keep Falkenburg out from doubling his personal tally.
The result means Udinese faces an uphill task to progress in the competition as home side AZ produce dominant display in one sided European encounter.
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