BRENDAN WIMBERLY - Monday, May 19, 2014
Aron Jonhannsson and AZ whimpered out of the Europa League playoffs in Sunday ultimate showdown with Groningen, ensuring that they will not be participating in European play next season.
Johannsson was the lone change in either starting lineup from the scoreless first leg on Wednesday, the American coming on for Viktor Elm who was ruled out with the flu.
AZ had most of the opportunities in the early proceedings but Tjarron Cherry's slaloming run through the AZ defense in the 24th minute and subsequent finish past stranded AZ keeper Esteban gave the midfielder his career-high 10th goal and Groningen a vital lead.
Groningen stayed on the front foot, and 20 year-old right back Hans Hateboer scored his first-career goal, doubling the home team's lead in the 33rd minute.
Hateboer and Cherry teamed up to put to rest any hope AZ had of qualifying for Europe in the 61st minute. Hateboer slid a pass through the AZ defense for Cherry, who shook off a challenge from Nemaja Gudelj before rifling a low shot past Esteban's fingertips to make the score 3-0.
AZ outshot Groningen 13-11, but only managed to put four on target. Johannsson was involved in a few opportunities during the game, but nothing which was particularly challenging for Groningen keeper Marco Bizot.
While the rest of his teammates leave for vacation after the season's conclusion, Johannsson now heads to link up with the USMNT in preparation for this summer's World Cup.