DAVID SMITH - Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Aron Johannsson showed he hasn't lost a step in spite of his long injury layoff in securing AZ the win while Rubio Rubin and Utrecht suffered a late collapse in falling to Cambuur.
AZ Alkmaar 1 - 0 Vitesse Arnhem
Aron Johannsson's early strike was enough to send AZ to a win over Arnhem on Sunday, in a game which gave the team much-needed momentum.
Johannsson was playing in his fourth straight game since returning from a long break on the sidelines with an ankle injury, and while he had shown promise, he had yet to open his scoring account in the new season.
This all changed 14 minutes into the game, Simon Poulsen released Thom Haye into space on a counter, and the young midfielder fired in a precision cross for the Alabama-born Johannsson to head into the net for the 1-0 lead.
AZ did take their foot off the gas in the second half, and were dangerously close to giving their opponents too much space and control in the final phase, although were luckily bailed out by the superb work of keeper Esteban Alvarado on several occasions.
The win pushes AZ up to fifth place firmly in the group of teams competing for Europa League placement.
They return to action on Saturday afternoon with a visit to sixth-place Cambuur-Leeuwarden.
FC Utrecht 1 - 3 Cambuur-Leeuwarden
Rubio Rubin saw a half-hour of substitute action for Utrecht on Sunday, however the team was unable to avoid a crushing defeat to Cambuur thanks to a pair of late opposing goals.
Utrecht were first to strike when Ruud Boymans hit from the spot after 24 minutes, but missed a golden opportunity to take a commanding lead into halftime when the former AZ man saw his second spot kick saved by keeper Leonard Nienhuis ten minutes later.
Cambuur striker Martijn made the miss all the more painful when he finished a fine attacking sequence by equalizing the score two minutes later.
Rubin was brought into the game at the hour mark to relieve Nacer Barazite, who was playing his first game since late-September, although he could do little to hold the tide of the visitors.
With eight minutes left in regulation, Furdjel Narsingh sprang Bartholomew Ogbeche free on goal for the 2-1 lead to the visitors, then Dejan Meleg finished them off when he tapped in a pass fromSander van de Streek at the death.
Utrecht fall to 11th place with the loss, although they are still well within range to make a quick push towards the European places if they should make even a short run during the cold months.
They will be back on the field on Saturday with a trip to NAC Breda.
Dion Watson was not in uniform on Friday evening for Fortuna Sittard's scoreless draw at home against Graafschap Doetinchem.
Charles Kazlauskas played the full 90 minutes for Helmond, as they were disappointed on the road with a 3-2 loss at Achilles 29 Groesbeek.