AZ Alkmaar's players readily admitted that luck was on their side as they rode out intense early pressure before a volley from former RSC Anderlecht trainee Maarten Martens sealed a 1-0 win and a 2-0 aggregate success in Brussels. They will next face Udinese Calcio in the UEFA Europa League round of 16 while Anderlecht's attentions now turn to the Belgian league, where they hold a seven-point advantage at the top going into Sunday's trip to K. Lierse SK.
Niklas Moisander, AZ defender
It's a fantastic result. Anderlecht played really well. In the beginning they were very strong and we were lucky to come out of that 0-0. But we didn't panic and, as the game went on, we played better and the goal was really important for us. It was not fun [at the start]. We knew they'd come at us hard and with enthusiasm and they'd have their great supporters behind them, so it was really difficult. It was a question of surviving the first 15 minutes when they were playing really well and very dangerous. Thanks to Esteban, our goalkeeper, and a bit of luck, we made it.
They also used a lot of energy at the beginning of the game trying to go 1-0 up and we knew in the second half that they didn't have the same power any more. When we got the goal, mentally it was a hard blow for them because then they had to score three. After the goal, it was over.
Etienne Reijnen, AZ defender
We wanted to win here and we were a little bit lucky, but when Maarten Martens scored in his home country we were really happy. In the first game in Alkmaar, we played really well; today we were a little bit lucky, but I think we deserved to win.
The first five minutes were really intense, but after half an hour we started to play our game and found our positions and then we scored. When they had to score three goals, the game was over – they knew that and we knew that. They tried to create something, but they were unlucky. We now go to Udinese and that'll be another game in another country and we'll see what happens.
Milan Jovanović, Anderlecht forward
Firstly, congratulations to AZ. They maybe deserved to win the first game, but today I think we deserved a better result. We missed a lot of fantastic chances to score a goal, and if we'd scored first, I think it would have been a totally different game. But that's football and we were unlucky tonight. Even after the start, we controlled the game and tried to build chances with a lot of passes; I think we played good football up until the moment we conceded the goal.
Now we have to be completely focused to be [Belgian] champions, because if we're not champions, it would be catastrophic for the club, for all the players personally and for the fans. We mustn’t lose this chance because the champions next year will automatically be in the group stage of the Champions League. Maybe next year we'll play against AZ in the Champions League and that'll be a good chance to get back at them.
Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht midfielder
It would have been a different game had we scored some early goals. Maybe it ends up being a good thing at the end of the season, because now we can put everything into the championship and try to win that Champions League spot for next season. In the first minute of the game, we had a good chance on the keeper and I think we hit it right at him. After that, I felt we pressed and pressed and I was sure we were going to score, so it’s a big disappointment. We've come out with nothing tonight.
Their keeper made some really good saves; even late in the game when there wasn't much left in it, he made a great save from Jovanović. A lot of credit to him – I know he's a good young goalkeeper, and we wish AZ all the best now.
Our fans always supported us throughout the campaign and I'm sure they'll continue to support us as we go out to win the Belgian league this year. We've got to get over this and get ready for Sunday.
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