RECAP: WEEKEND DUTCH ACTION
Jozy Altidore was unable to add to his scoring total in 15 minutes of play for AZ over the weekend, as they kept pace with league leaders PSV Eindhoven thanks to a win over Excelsior Rotterdam.
AZ Alkmaar 2 - 0 Excelsior Rotterdam
Once again confined to bench duty in favor of Charlison Benschop, Jozy Altidore saw 15 minutes of action for AZ as they saved their fireworks until the second half in a win over Excelsior.
Barely two months after the first league meeting between the teams ended in a drab, scoreless draw, a frustrating first half which saw numerous AZ chances go awry - including two off the woodwork by Benschop and Brett Holman - undoubtedly had the team fearing yet another disappointing result.
Fortunately they were finally able to break through twice in quick succession early in the second half, with both coming off the foot of their Belgian stalwart Maarten Martens.
The first came in the 58th minute when a quick of fluid passing from left to center culminated with Holman splitting a pair of defenders at the edge of the six-yard box, with Martens picking up the ball, rounding the keeper and scoring with a simple tap-in.
Two minutes later, Martens completed the rapid-fire double, although with much of the credit owning to Benschop.
The 22 year-old Antillean-born forward tracked down a long ball on the right side and powered through two defenders to send a slow-roller towards the lower left corner. With Excelsior keeper Wesley de Ruiter making charge to stop the ball from crossing the line, Martens charged in to emphatically slam it into the back netting, bringing the final score to 2-0.
Altidore entered for Benschop with 15 minutes and did his best to remain in the thick of the action, capped off with a shot in the final 5 minutes straight at de Ruiter, but was unable to repeat his own two-goal performance of their midweek win.
With PSV Eindhoven also posing a win over the weekend, AZ find themselves out of the league lead only by way of goal differential.
They face the first of two legs in their Europa League Round of 32 knockout duel against Sacha Kljestan and Belgian neighbors Anderlecht at home on Thursday, then hit the road three days later to visit 14th-place FC Utrecht in league play.
Charles Kazlauskas and Helmond will have to wait until Monday morning to find out of their schedule game against Wilhelm II Tilburg will still go forth. With six of the eight games scheduled to take place in this round of Jupiler League action postponed by inclement weather and Wilhelm's field currently covered in snow, they will likely have a few days off until they next suit up on Friday against visiting Telstar Velsen.