Thursday, February 22, 2007

More Fenerbahce vs. AZ Alkmaar Game Notes


Courtesy of UEFA.com...
Most clubs in the UEFA Cup Round of 32 would feel confident about progressing after gaining a 3-3 draw away from home in the first leg. However, AZ Alkmaar have more reason than most to feel composed when they meet Fenerbahçe SK in the Netherlands tonight.

If AZ manage to avoid defeat to the Turkish side, it will stretch their unbeaten home run in European competition to 28 matches - 23 of which would have been played in the UEFA Cup. Only English side Ipswich Town FC, who have never tasted a home defeat in 31 European games (including 26 in the UEFA Cup), can boast a better record in front of their own supporters.

The achievement of the club is made even more impressive by the fact that they did not play in European competition for a period of over 20 years and have kept the run going after moving into a new stadium. Between 14 September 1977 and the end of the 1981/82 season, famous sides like FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano and Liverpool FC were unable to beat the Alkmaar side in the Alkmaarder Hout stadium. Ipswich themselves were victims as AZ almost turned round a 3-0 first-leg deficit in the 1980/81 UEFA Cup final - the English side eventually triumphing 5-4 on aggregate.
When the club eventually resumed their European adventure in the 2004/05, they carried on the remarkable feat under Co Adriaanse as AZ reached the semi-finals where they were knocked out on away goals by Sporting Club de Portugal. After moving to the DSB-Stadium in 2006 coach Louis van Gaal picked up the baton although FC Slovan Liberec nearly ended the run in November only for substitute Julian Jenner to snatch a 2-2 draw in the final minute. However, Van Gaal is more concerned with qualification for the next stage rather than extending the record and he is particularly wary of Mateja Kežman, who scored seven times in four seasons in Alkmaar during his time at PSV Eindhoven.

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