DAVID SMITH - Monday, April 23, 2012
Jozy Altidore notched the winner for AZ as they stayed at the head of the pack hunting for second place while injured Charles Kazlauskas continued to be absent for Helmond in their Friday-night draw.
AZ Alkmaar 2 - 1 VVV-Venlo
Jozy Altidore put in a 90-minute shift on Sunday afternoon, netting what turned out to be the winning goal for AZ - and his 19th of the season in all competitions - as they surged for a win over visiting VVV-Venlo.
AZ dominated the opening half, but were forced to wait until just after the break to be rewarded for their efforts.
A 46th-minute corner was initially cleared from in front of goal, but fell to the foot of Adam Maher in the left side of the six-yard box. The young Dutch international quickly passed it back to Brett Holman outside the area, who one-timed a low blast just inside the left upright for the lead.
Just before the hour, Venlo equalized, thanks largely to the efforts of Yannick Wildschut. The forward maintained possession on the left side under pressure from two defenders long enough to allow Quin Kruysen to sneak into the box, where he had only the simple task to tap in Wildschut's cross for 1-1.
AZ needed just five minutes to regain the lead, with Altidore netting his impressive 15th Eredivisie goal of the season. Maarten Martens dribbled into the left side of the area, drawing the attention of the Venlo defense, then he hit a perfect cross to the American on the right side for an easy open header.
While the Eredivisie title is likely a step too far with Ajax holding a six-point lead heading into the final three games, AZ are in pole position to nab the second Champions League spot. They currently lead Feynoord by the narrowest of goal differentials, are one point ahead of each of Twente and PSV, and hold a two-point advantage over Heerenveen.
They will visit Feynoord on Sunday afternoon, in what will likely be the critical contest of the season for both teams.
Charles Kazlauskas is recovering from an injury and was in uniform on Friday when Helmond Sport gave up a late equalizer to settle for a 1-1 draw at BV Veendam.