RECAP: WEEKEND DUTCH ACTION
Jozy Altidore saw a half of action as AZ's loss at Roda dropped them to third place while Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond continued their strong start to 2012.
Roda JC 2 - 0 AZ Alkmaar
Jozy Altidore was a halftime substitute for AZ Alkmaar on Saturday, however was unable to help them come back from a two-goal deficit as a loss at Roda JC pulled them out of first place.
The pressure was already on AZ heading into the game, with PSV Eindhoven's win the night before putting them into the position of needing nothing short of victory to reclaim the top spot.
As with AZ's previous two games, Altidore kept his place on the bench with Charlison Benschop getting the nod atop the attack.
Ten minutes after the opening whistle, Roda were already in the lead as a fine cross from Mads Junker out of the right flank was headed in by Sanharid Malki amidst a crowd of players for his 12th goal of the season.
Junker then was the recipient of the setup work of Mitchell Donald, storming in the right side of the area and putting Donald's cross away into an open net for the 33rd-minute 2-0 lead.
Altidore was brought on by head coach Gertjan Verbeek at halftime as an offensive reinforcement, and did find himself in a dangerous one-on-one situation with Roda keeper Pawel Kieszek just past the hour mark, but wastefully aimed his shot straight at his opponent.
With both PSV Eindhoven and FC Twente winning over the weekend, AZ drop all the way to third place. They should have no problems to beat lower league team GVVV in their Dutch Cup quarterfinal match on Wednesday, and will next square off against 13th-place ADO Den Haag in league play three days later.
Fortuna Sittard 0 - 1 Helmond Sport
Charles Kazlauskas played the full 90 minutes on Friday evening on the right side of Helmond's midfield, as they were able to shut down Fortuna Sittard in a narrow victory.
Several absent players forced Helmond into a more defensive posture in the game, and the lack of attackers was evident as they only mustered one real shot on goal over the 90 minutes apart from several set piece opportunities.
One such dead-ball situation ultimately led to the only score of the game, when Helmond's free kick specialist Jop Van der Linden lined up for a 27-yard free kick just before the half-hour, and struck it perfectly to the upper right corner of goal for the winner.
The three points pushes Helmond into the upper half of the overall standings at ninth place, and keeps them within four of the lead for the third quarter standings, with spot in the promotion playoff awaiting the winner of each of the four. They will be back in action on Friday when they host tenth-place Almere City FC.