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Victims of a late, late leveller in their previous UEFA Champions League Group H game against R. Standard de Liège, AZ Alkmaar did the same to Arsenal FC when David Mendes da Silva volleyed in a brilliant 93rd-minute equaliser to rescue a 1-1 draw.
AZ midfielder Maarten Martens expressed the Dutch champions' relief at salvaging a positive result from an increasingly lost-looking cause when he told uefa.com: "It feels like a victory, even though it's only a point." With the draw lifting Alkmaar clear of bottom-placed Standard and to within four points of Olympiacos FC in second, the 25-year-old Belgian international added: "It's a big point in the battle for second spot. Arsenal may have been marginally better but we did well, particularly in the first half. Luckily we limited them to one goal, and with Graziano Pellè on as a substitute we had an extra option, which paid off when he nodded the ball on for David to score."
A creditable performance by Ronald Koeman's men reduced their recently free-scoring opponents to relatively few openings after Cesc Fàbregas's 36th-minute goal. "We were satisfied with our game plan to begin with, although losing the goal was obviously a big blow," said AZ defender Niklas Moisander, who was dispossessed by Andrei Arshavin in the build-up to Arsenal's breakthrough. "It's a totally different proposition playing against a team of Arsenal's calibre. They have players who can really punish you."
Arsenal midfielder Abou Diaby was just as complimentary about the home side. "I think AZ are a very good team," he said. "The way they played, they deserved to score and take something from the game. They were fantastic." The French international also recognised the quality of the visitors' display, adding: "Our goal was typical Arsenal, more or less walking the ball into the net. We practise a lot to develop our quick passing. Cesc is always there, giving a good pass or scoring important goals. He's very good for the team."
However, Gunners defender Bacary Sagna was more critical. "I think it's more a case of two points dropped than one gained," he said. "I don't know why we lost focus, but we have to make sure it doesn't happen again." Asked if he thought his club were still in control of Group H after their lead over Olympiacos was cut to a point, he added: "I don't want to think about it. We just have to make sure we win our next game [against AZ in London]."
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