DAVID SMITH - Thursday, December 29, 2011
Jozy Altidore and the rest of the AZ Alkmaar appear to have caught a break after the latest development in the saga surrounding their Dutch Cup game against Ajax Amsterdam.
The match originally schedule on December 21 in Amsterdam was interrupted in the 36th minute, with Ajax leading 1-0 through an eighth-minute score by Gregory van der Wiel, when a drunk Ajax supporter ran onto the field and attempted to attack AZ's Costa Rican keeper Esteban Alvarado.
Alvarado threw the attacker to the ground and gave him a pair of kicks before the two were pulled apart by stewards. The real shock came a few seconds later, however, when referee Bas Nijhuis chose to give the keeper a straight red card for violent conduct, much to the disdain and disbelief of all on the field.
Before the game could restart, AZ coach Gertjan Verbeek pulled his players off the field, into the locker room, and the team quickly departed from the stadium, leaving Nijhuis no choice but to abandon the game.
In the days following the shocking turn of events, the Dutch FA predictably rescinded Alvarado's red card, however a decision on how to decide the outcome of the interrupted game remained in the balance.
On Thursday, the Dutch FA ended a week of uncertainty by announcing that the game would be replayed in its entirety on Thursday, January 19, although with the caveat that it would take place behind closed doors with neither teams' supporters present.
In the immediate wake of the events, valid arguments for a forfeiture for either team, a continuation of the game from the point of the attack or taking the 1-0 Ajax lead as the final score could all be made.
However, the decision for a fresh restart must ultimately be considered a break for AZ since both the obviously pro-Ajax crowd in the Amsterdam Arena and the previous lead for the hosts have been taken out of play.
AZ and Ajax will have the chance to face off again in front of a packed stadium soon after, since they are schedule to meet in Alkmaar three days after the rescheduled cup game when Eredivisie play resumes following the holiday break.
This three-day span could very well define Alkmaar's season since a pair of wins could see them emerge as favorites for a domestic double whereas losses in both would stand not only to end their Cup run, but also potentially cost them their lead atop the Eredivisie.