DAVID SMITH - Friday, February 10, 2012
Jozy Altidore made the most of his 14-minute substitute appearance on Wednesday evening, adding AZ's fifth and sixth goals in their rout of ADO Den Haag.
The game was originally scheduled over the previous weekend, however the extended cold spell throughout the European continent left on-field conditions unplayable, forcing the four-day delay.
As has been the case, the American was left on the bench in favor of starter Charlison Benschop, although both young forwards showed their drive by accounting for five of the team's six scores.
Benschop put AZ in the lead three minutes past the half-hour when he connected with a left-side cross from Brett Holman, then added a second just past the halftime break after receiving a flick from Maarten Martens at the top of the area and sliding his low shot out of Gino Coutinho's reach.
His hat-trick was completed in the 69th with the most impressive of the three, first tracking down a long ball from Rasmus Elm on the left, then cutting inside and making space between two defenders for a well-placed shot to the lower left corner.
Martens then added a goal of his own four minutes later as he had only Coutinho to beat, and did a fine job of chipping the ball over the keeper.
Altidore entered the game with 14 minutes remaining for hat-trick hero Benschop, and wasted no time in reminding head coach Gertjan Verbeek of his prowess in front of goal.
Holman was again the catalyst for his first in the 85th minute, with a clever pass to send the American through to goal, then Altidore was quick to react three minutes later when Marten's shot was blocked by Coutinho to the left of goal, allowing him to collect the ball and slot it past the keeper for the final 6-0 scoreline.
The result pulls AZ back even with PSV Eindhoven on 42 points atop the Eredivisie standings, although they still trail by way of an inferior goal differential.
With Europa League play resuming next week, they have a busy schedule in the immediate future. They will host 16th-place Excelsior Rotterdam on Saturday, then face Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht on Thursday in the first of two legs to begin the Europa League knockout round.