Louis van Gaal says his players "are now in the history books" after AZ Alkmaar's 1-0 UEFA Cup win against Greek rivals Larissa FC saw them go a record 32 European home games unbeaten.
'Part of history'
Moussa Dembélé's 77th-minute goal boosted AZ's chances of reaching the knockout rounds from Group A, but more importantly, broke Ipswich Town FC's mark of 31 matches without defeat in UEFA competition. "I told my players before kick-off that this record is important," said Van Gaal. "Because we did not lose here, these players have become part of the history of AZ. They are in the history books of this club. That is something I am proud of, and the same goes for my players."
The Dutch side's 32nd European home game since they made their continental debut with an 11-1 victory over FA Red Boys Differdange in 1977, was far from easy. The coach acknowledged as much, saying: "This is the best team we have faced this season, including [AFC] Ajax and PSV [Eindhoven]. But AZ played a very mature game and deserved the victory. In the end we were patient enough to decide it in the last 15 minutes."
Neither Ipswich nor Alkmaar have lost a home match in Europe, and while Manchester United FC went 56 games at Old Trafford without defeat from 1956, their unbeaten streak ended in 1996. AZ's record run comprises 27 UEFA Cup ties, two European Champion Clubs' Cup matches and three UEFA Cup Winners' Cup games. The likes of FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano and Liverpool FC have all left Alkmaar without victories in the club's 30-year European history. AZ also won 4-2 against Ipswich in the second leg of the 1980/81 UEFA Cup final, having lost the first leg in England 3-0. AZ visit 1. FC Nürnberg in their next Group A fixture on 5 December.
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