DAVID SMITH - Thursday, May 3, 2012
Jozy Altidore had a short day in the office on Wednesday, coming out with an injury after 35 minutes as a 1-1 draw at NEC Nijmegen ended AZ's final Champions League hopes.
The hosts wasted no time to claim the advantage, with Kevin Conboy having much of the credit to claim. The Danish defender first stole the ball in the midfield to begin an attack, then several passes later produced a cross from near the endline which was only partially cleared from danger.
The ball landed right at the foot of Navarone Foor, who took advantage of the chaotic situation to fire the ball back inside where Genero Zeefuik coolly redirected it over the line for the 1-0 NEC lead.
In the 30th minute, Altidore had a scare when he battled for the ball near the midfield stripe with Pavel Cmovs, and took a shove which saw him slide head-first into a solid barrier.
The American was incapacitated for several minutes with what looked to be either a head or back injury, and a few moments after stepping back onto the field was promptly subbed out in the 35th minute in favor of Ruud Boymans.
AZ were able to equalize two minutes before the hour, with Altidore's replacement Boymans saving the day. Simon Poulsen beat a defender to fire in a cross from the right side to the near post, where Boymans headed it in past the helpless keeper.
AZ remain in the automatic Europa League qualification spots, however are at risk of dropping down into the four-team playoff in the final week of the season. They hold a two-point lead over sixth-place Twente, although with a far inferior goal differential.
With Twente playing a weak VVV-Venlo team in their final game over the weekend, AZ will likely need to beat Groningen in their regular season closer to avoid falling to sixth and being forced to contend with the playoff.
Unfortunately for Altidore, while he did avoid serious injury, a bruised back does mean he will miss the weekend's game, although he would return for any potential playoff.