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Brett Holman and Maarten Martens each scored and provided an assist as AZ Alkmaar defeated Valencia CF 2-1 in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League quarter final tie.
The Liga side enjoyed the bulk of the play in the opening 45 minutes yet it was Gertjan Verbeek's men who went in ahead, Brett Holman superbly volleying Martens' corner high into the net on the stroke of half-time. Mehmet Topal headed the equaliser soon after the interval, but Martens expertly converted Holman's cross near the end to give his side a slender advantage going into next week's second leg.
It could have been a different story had Roberto Soldado converted one of two early chances, firstly shooting into the side netting after dispossessing Ragnar Klavan and then drawing an instinctive block from AZ keeper Esteban with a half-volley. Jordi Alba had an even better opportunity but Klavan blocked his shot.
The visitors continued to call the shots as the half progressed, although they failed to trouble Esteban until the 40th minute, when he tipped Tino Costa's free-kick around the post. Yet it was the Eredivisie leaders who went in ahead. With what was virtually the last action of the half, Martens whipped in a deep corner from the right and Holman finished with a beautifully measured volley beyond Diego Alves and into the opposite corner.
Valencia restored parity soon after the restart, Ricardo Costa floating a deep cross into the box and Mehmet Topal rising to head powerfully past Esteban, who then made an excellent reflex save from a deft Soldado flick. Alves pulled off a double-fisted stop of his own to keep out Rasmus Elm's stinging long-range drive, and at the other end Jonas scuffed wide after being set up by Jérémy Mathieu.
It was the Holman-Martens combination which had the final say, however, the Belgian sweeping in his team-mate's low centre to send AZ's fans home ecstatic – and optimistic of a semi-final berth – despite a late scare when Valencia went close during a succession of corners.
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