Last season's UEFA Cup semi-finalists AZ Alkmaar began their group stage campaign in this year's competition with a valuable victory at FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, strikes early in each half from Shota Arveladze and Tarik Sektioui earning a two-goal cushion before defender Serhiy Matiukhin pulled one back for the Ukrainian outfit.
The home side started strongly with Dmytro Semochko having the first shot of the game on six minutes, although Henk Timmer was equal to his effort. The visitors were soon into their stride, however, and created two good chances inside the opening ten minutes. First, Kenneth Perez curled a free-kick straight into the arms of goalkeeper Artem Kusliy before Sektioui sent a close-range shot just wide.
It proved a sign of things to come as AZ went ahead in the 14th minute, Arveladze calmly slotting the ball into the bottom left-hand corner from four metres out. The goal seemed to shake Dnipro's self-belief and they struggled to make progress for the rest of the first half, although Alexsandr Melashchenko might have equalised as he rose to meet Serhiy Nazarenko's corner only to head over the crossbar.
Kusliy in action
Instead it was Louis van Gaal's men who came closest to scoring before the break when Kusliy was again called into action to save from Perez and Arveladze. The visitors duly got the second goal their inventive attacking play had warranted six minutes into the second half, the impressive Sektioui turning in Perez's corner. Stein Huysegems almost made it three but his close-range effort was blocked by Kusliy.
Dnipro rallied and halved the deficit in the 71st minute, Matiukhin slotting in to round off a rare home attack. The goal invigorated the Ukrainian team, who almost equalised a minute later but Timmer saved well from Sergei Kornilenko. Both sides created chances as the game opened up in the final stages, Kusliy saving well yet again from Grétar Steinsson's header while at the other end Timmer kept out an effort from Melashchenko to ensure AZ held on to the points.
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