DAVID SMITH - Friday, March 23, 2012
Jozy Altidore and AZ saw their chance at the domestic double squashed on Thursday night as they were dumped out of the Dutch Cup with an overtime loss at home to Heracles.
Altidore started the game at the head of the attack, however was subbed off at halftime in favor of recently-returned forward Charlison Benschop, perhaps with an eye towards AZ's run at the league title.
The visitors, who had come into the game on a run of four straight losses, took a surprising early lead in the sixth minute when a series of corners finally led to Brazilian forward Everton heading in a delivery from Willie Overtoom.
AZ did equalize in the 20th minute as Adam Maher controlled a through-ball from Simon Poulsen at the left post and poked it over the line, then grabbed the lead two minutes later as Johan Gudmundsson fired a low bouncing shot from 12 yards out well out of reach of Heracles keeper Dennis Telgenkamp.
Altidore was pulled from the game at the break for Benschop, and was forced to watch from the sidelines as Heracles equalized midway through the second half as Kwame Quansah headed in a corner from Lerin Duarte.
With neither team able to break through in the final minutes of regulation, they were forced to play a pair of extra 15-minute periods for the right to appear in next month's final.
After a scoreless first 15 minutes, late Heracles substitute Thomas Bruns gave his team the prize with a powerful blast in the 110th minute from the right side of the area after slipping past the defense, then Ninos Gouriye made everything certain in the final minute of overtime as he slapped a shot past Esteban Alvarado from the edge of the six-yard box for the final 4-2 score.
With their chance at winning the Cup now a thing of the past, AZ will try to hold onto their one-point lead atop the Eredivisie when they host RKC Waalwijk on Sunday, then will try to continue their run towards the Europa League final four days later when Valencia come for a visit.