Despite playing almost the entire game with ten men and seeing Antonio Di Natale's double cancel out their first-leg advantage inside 15 minutes, a fine Erik Falkenburg goal earned AZ Alkmaar a UEFA Europa League quarter-final spot at the expense of Udinese Calcio.
"We have to score as soon as possible," Udinese coach Francesco Guidolin said on the eve of the game, but even he could not have dreamt of a better start. The game was less than a minute old when Nick Viergever gave Di Natale a chance from the penalty spot, receiving his marching orders for his troubles. The striker capitalised and quickly added another as Udinese usurped the box seat; AZ and Falkenburg had other ideas, though.
Theirs was a triumph over adversity after Viergever was adjudged to have brought down Antonio Floro Flores with just over 50 seconds on the clock. Di Natale made no mistake from the spot; he was similarly clinical on 15 minutes after a sumptuous team move that culminated in Giovanni Pasquale volleying a cross from the left into the path of the forward at the back post.
Last week's 2-0 defeat in the Netherlands seemed to have been consigned to memory but the Eredivisie leaders were not done yet. On 31 minutes Falkenburg, in the side in place of the injured Maarten Martens after scoring his side's second in the first leg, repeated the trick. The playmaker controlled Simon Poulsen's pull-back from the left and sent a wonderful left-foot shot in the top corner of Samir Handanovič's goal.
Udinese tried hard to make the numerical advantage count in the second half but it was AZ who had a golden opportunity to close off the tie when Maurizio Domizzi fouled Brett Holman in the box. Rasmus Elm, however, fired over from the spot. Handanovič then kept Udinese alive with two brilliant saves to deny Jozy Altidore and Adam Maher, but the home side never managed to create similar opportunities at the other end.