AZ Alkmaar remain unbeaten in UEFA Europa League Group L after a 1-1 draw with FC Shakhter Karagandy in Astana.
The Kazakh side started brightly and forged ahead through Andrei Finonchenko's second goal in as many UEFA Europa League games. AZ were making the longest journey in the history of UEFA group stage competitions – around 4,400km – and earned a point to take back to the Netherlands thanks to Johann Gudmundsson's composed finish.
Without a win in their opening two matches, Shakhter set about securing their first triumph in determined fashion and could have scored twice in the opening three minutes. First, neat play around the edge of the AZ box released Gevorg Ghazaryan, but he could only fire straight at Esteban inside 55 seconds. Then, Sergei Khizhnichenko raced clear before failing to get the necessary purchase on his shot and allowing AZ's No1 to save easily low to his left.
Dick Advocaat's charges had been warned in open play, yet it was a long throw that proved their undoing. Gediminas Vičius' delivery from the right was flicked on by Nikola Vasiljević and Finonchenko was on hand at the back post to tap in from close range. AZ had rarely threatened, but they levelled against the run of play with their first attempt in the 26th minute. A sublime Mattias Johansson pass in behind Aldin Džidić was weighted perfectly for Gudmundsson to race onto, and the Iceland winger poked past the onrushing Aleksandr Mokin for his second goal in the competition.
The second half began in an almost identical manner to the first, but again Khizhnichenko was denied by Esteban's right arm when clear on goal. The Eredivisie side responded as they sought a third successive European away win, yet the spoils were ultimately shared after Aron Jóhannsson had an effort blocked and headed another harmlessly wide.
©UEFA.com 1998-2011. All rights reserved.