Pellegrini stays positive despite loss

Manuel Luis Pellegrini insists Villarreal CF can overhaul a first-leg deficit at AZ Alkmaar next Thursday.

Robin Nelisse's 74th-minute strike gave AZ Alkmaar a crucial away victory in the first leg of their UEFA Cup quarter-final tie against Villarreal CF. Danny Landzaat had earlier put the Dutch side 1-0 up but Juan Román Riquelme soon equalised, though later saw a penalty saved by Henk Timmer. Villarreal coach Manuel Luis Pellegrini admitted that the Dutch side have a daunting record at the Alkmaarderhout but feels a second-leg victory "is not out of the question". Co Adriaanse lauded his goalkeeper for the spot-kick stop but admitted its taker was otherwise "in a league of his own".

Manuel Luis Pellegrini, Villarreal coach
I was not at all surprised at Alkmaar's approach to the game and the way they insisted right from the start. They are a side that have enjoyed an excellent UEFA Cup run and have gone 26 games without defeat in the Netherlands. These are the kind of games that you should never lose but unfortunately that is what has happened. I felt we played a great first half and we had chances to resolve the match but our opponents were resuscitated by their second goal. The result leaves us obliged to win the return leg which is not out of the question bearing in mind that Alkmaar are a side that like to play very open football. Now we must show our character by winning the away leg as Alkmaar did here tonight.

Co Adriaanse, Alkmaar coach
This was a surprising but very pleasing result for us during an attractive and emotional game. I thought that we had enough possession throughout the game and marked Riquelme well, who was without any doubt, the dangerman in Villarreal's team. We allowed [Olaf] Lindenbergh to play more freely and that helped us to control play when we needed to. The opening goal was a delight to watch. But the goalkeeper's superb stop strengthened us mentally from that moment on. The rhythm of the game increased during the second half and we managed to neutralise Riquelme, who as I said before, really is in a league of his own.