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AZ clinch Dutch crown as rivals wilt

Published: Monday 20 April 2009, 0.50CET
Louis van Gaal said he felt "proud of my players" after his AZ Alkmaar side were crowned Dutch champions for only the second time in their history – the other coming in 1980/81 – on a weekend when the top three all lost.
AZ clinch Dutch crown as rivals wilt
AZ's Graziano Pelle opens the champagne as the title celebrations commence ©AFP
Published: Monday 20 April 2009, 0.50CET

AZ clinch Dutch crown as rivals wilt

Louis van Gaal said he felt "proud of my players" after his AZ Alkmaar side were crowned Dutch champions for only the second time in their history – the other coming in 1980/81 – on a weekend when the top three all lost.

AZ Alkmaar have been crowned Dutch champions for only the second time in their history – the other coming in 1980/81 – after a weekend in which all of the top-three teams experienced defeat.

Ajax defeat
Louis van Gaal's side had been expected to clinch the Eredivisie title in front of their own fans on Saturday evening, only to lose 2-1 to BV Vitesse for their first reverse since September. Second-placed FC Twente were also beaten, however, going down 1-0 at Feyenoord, and that left AFC Ajax needing to triumph at PSV Eindhoven to keep the race alive. Instead, Marco van Basten's men were routed 6-2 by last year's winners.

Van Gaal relief
AZ had originally planned extensive celebrations in Alkmaar following their game but ultimately held a smaller ceremony for supporters from the balcony of their DSB-Stadium home after watching Ajax lose to PSV. For Van Gaal, the overriding sentiment was one of relief. "I've been left with a bad feeling all day long," he said. "But this makes it right again. I'm proud of the players; for all these guys, this is their first championship." The club can now look forward to a berth in the UEFA Champions League group stage next season.

Last updated: 20/04/09 12.38CET

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