Nick Viergever was in the right place at the right time to earn AZ Alkmaar a 1-0 UEFA Europa League round of 32 first-leg win at FC Slovan Liberec.
The AZ captain pounced in the 89th minute to prod into an unguarded net after home keeper Přemysl Kovář had spilled Nemanja Gudelj's deep free-kick. It was a goal the Dutch team's endeavour deserved; AZ exuded a self-assurance rooted in a six-match European unbeaten run, taking the game to their Czech hosts and pinning them back for long periods.
Twice in the early stages Aron Jóhannsson and lively forward Johann Gudmundsson linked up with smart passing triangles on the inside-left channel, but both times goal-bound shots from Gudmundsson were repelled by home skipper Radoslav Kováč – the keystone in a deep-lying wall of defenders.
When Slovan did dare to venture forward, they looked susceptible on the counter – Roy Beerens brought a low save from Kovář on one such occasion, and another Beerens break finished with Gudelj flashing a volley just off target from the edge of the box.
Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and Liberec's Yevhen Budnik traded stinging shots from distance without success in a stretched start to the second period. The contest gradually settled into a familiar pattern, though – yet despite Gudelj pulling the strings admirably in a No10 role, a persistent AZ struggled to find a route to goal.
Liberec almost took advantage in a fleeting spell of possession, but AZ custodian Esteban was at his sharpest to palm Yevhen Budnik's low drive past the post. Then came Viergever's timely intervention to secure the spoils for the Eredivisie club.
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