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A last-minute Kenneth Perez penalty helped AZ Alkmaar put one foot in the quarter-finals, sealing a 3-1 first-leg victory against FC Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. The Dutch high-fliers return to Alkmaarderhout safe in the knowledge that they have won all four home matches in the UEFA Cup this season.
These two clubs are paired together over two legs for the first time, but Shakhtar have played Dutch opposition once before. In the first round of the 1999/00 UEFA Cup, Shakhtar lost 5-1 on aggregate to Roda JC. Goals from Arnold Doomernik and Dave Zafarin ensured a 2-0 home win in Kerkrade, while Roda also triumphed in Ukraine, 3-1, thanks to strikes from Bernard Tchoutang, Eric van Luer and Kevin van Dessel.
AZ Alkmaar are challenging for Eredivisie honours and are looking to reach their first European final since 1981, when as AZ '67 Alkmaar, they were involved in a superb UEFA Cup final over two legs against Sir Bobby Robson's Ipswich Town FC. Ipswich won the first leg 3-0 at Portman Road, but the return was an entirely different affair. Dutchman Frans Thijssen put the English team ahead after four minutes, only for Alkmaar to strike back through Kurt Welzl and Johnny Metgod.
John Wark's 14th goal of the campaign then left Ipswich in a seemingly unassailable position, but Alkmaar were not finished and moved 4-2 in front, Kees Tol and Jos Jonker scoring either side of half-time. Despite a late onslaught, Alkmaar failed to register again and had to settle for second place - an achievement they will be trying to better in 2005.
Shakhtar's two forays into the Champions League group stage, in 2000/01 and this season, have both ended in elimination. Despite losing at home to Alkmaar, Mircea Lucescu’s side can take encouragement from their performance in the previous round when, having joined the UEFA Cup by virtue of a third-placed finish in their Champions League pool, they defeated FC Schalke 04 in the Round of 32.
They were on course to lose the first leg before Brandão scored in the 86th minute, a goal from which Shakhtar never looked back as they won 1-0 in Germany courtesy of Julius Aghahowa's 22nd-minute strike.
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