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Perez strike sees off Villarreal

Thursday, 14 April 2005

[1] An eighth-minute strike from Kenneth Perez proved decisive as AZ Alkmaar edged past Villarreal CF and into the UEFA Cup semi-finals.

Crisp dive

[2] The Danish midfield player struck a crisp drive low to the goalkeeper's right to make it 3-1 on aggregate. Villarreal pulled a goal back through Luciano Figueroa with 18 minutes remaining and Juan Román Riquelme saw his wonderful curling free-kick come back off the inside of the post six minutes later, but a second goal proved elusive for the visitors in a match that both sides finished with ten men.

Attacking intent

[3] Alkmaar took a narrow lead into the game after a late strike from Robin Nelisse sealed a hard-fought 2-1 victory in Spain last week but despite Joris Mathijsen's return from injury, Co Adriaanse's side surprisingly adopted an attacking 3-4-3 formation at kick-off.

Lucho miss

[4] The decision almost backfired after just seven minutes, however, when Lucho ghosted behind a static Alkmaar back line to meet Riquelme's arcing free-kick. However, with the goalkeeper stranded, the Argentinian striker blazed over the crossbar - and less than a minute later, Perez made it 3-1 on aggregate.

Double dismissal

[5] The goal did nothing to dampen Alkmaar's attacking enthusiasm, but they were forced to rearrange on 21 minutes when Opdam saw yellow for the second time in as many minutes for a foul on José Mari Romero. The striker soon joined him in being dismissed after kicking out at Barry van Galen while lying on the floor.

Total football

[6] Although Lucho tested Henk Timmer, it was Alkmaar who adapted quicker, with players taking it in turns to defend and attack at will. As if to exemplify this, Perez tracked back to deflect Armando Sá's shot from eight metres into the arms of goalkeeper Timmer.

Villarreal invigorated

[7] Villarreal came out for the second half a few minutes after Alkmaar, but whatever Manuel Luis Pellegrini said to his side it had the desired effect as Román went close before almost forcing Olaf Lindenbergh into an own goal within minutes of the restart. When the last surviving UEFA Intertoto Cup winners did eventually make the breakthrough, it was inevitably the Argentinian playmaker who created the tap-in for Lucho.

Frenetic finish

[8] Román hit the post and Armando then blazed over with two minutes remaining but Alkmaar held on and will now line up against Sporting Clube de Portugal in the last four.

Alkmaar celebrate their progress to the semi-finals