Ernest Poku and Mexx Meerdink both scored twice as AZ won the UEFA Youth League title in Geneva.
Article top media content
AZ Alkmaar claimed their first European trophy at any level after they turned on the style for a 5-0 victory against Hajduk Split in the UEFA Youth League final in Geneva.
Hajduk, making history for Croatia, were roared on by a huge following of close to 10,000 that had necessitated the switch to Stade de Genève from the competition's usual final venue in nearby Nyon. But Jayden Addai broke the deadlock from the penalty spot on the stroke of half-time before doubles from the magnificent Ernest Poku and substitute Mexx Meerdink gave AZ a deserved triumph.
45' Addai penalty breaks deadlock
70' AZ double lead through Poku
76' Poku nets third for AZ
79' Sub Meerdink adds fourth
87' Meerdink completes scoring
As it happened
Match in brief: Tremendous AZ take title
Addai, who scored the winning penalty for AZ against Sporting CP in the semi-final shoot-out on Friday, had a chance in the second minute, forcing Borna Buljan to save. The Hajduk goalkeeper also did well to tip over Poku's effort before diving to deny Addai after the resulting corner.
AZ continued to attack but repeatedly found Buljan in the way until they won a penalty just before half-time, when Poku was brought down by Luka Vušković. Addai proved reliable from the spot again, his low kick just beating the dive of Buljan.
After half-time, AZ brought on Meerdink, who scored the winning penalty for the seniors in their UEFA Europa Conference League quarter-final with Anderlecht on Thursday and also played in Sunday's Eredivisie defeat of RKC Waawijk before flying to Geneva. His introduction helped AZ keep up their momentum.
Mate Antunović very nearly levelled just after the hour mark, his strong effort tipped over the bar by Rome-Jayden Owusu-Oduro. But in the 70th minute, Poku got the goal his performance merited as he cut in from the left and sent a shot from outside the box around the grasp of the Hajduk keeper.
Six minutes later, Poku was on target again after a swift one-two with Meerdink and a searing angled finish. Soon after, Meerdink had a goal of his own following a jinking solo run and calm strike. Meerdink completed the scoring eight minutes later as he ran on to a Kess Smit pass and made no mistake, adding the honour of season joint-top scorer to his winner's medal.
Derek Brookman, AZ reporter
A consummate performance from start to finish. AZ were dominant in all departments, and they should have been ahead by more at the break. But they rectified that in the second half with four excellent goals. An outstanding tournament has been capped by an emphatic final victory. Magnificent.
Elvir Islamović, Hajduk reporter
Hajduk's dream of lifting the trophy ends painfully against dominant AZ but they do not need to be sad, having achieved great things in the Youth League this season. This was a historic success of a campaign for the club and Croatian football, and they will be treated as heroes when they return to Split.
Ernest Poku, AZ forward: "I don’t know if many people expected this [at the beginning of the tournament]. They called us underdogs. But we'll fight to the bitter end for each other, and this is the result. This evening, it felt like we had the wind at our backs. Everything worked out.
"I don't know how we're going to celebrate this evening. I really don't. But I do know we'll be taking the trophy back to our stadium when we return to the Netherlands. I'm just so happy. We all are."
Mexx Meerdink, AZ forward: "It's almost indescribable. We came here with one purpose, and that was to take this trophy home. It's a fantastic moment.
"I came on in the 20th minute yesterday [against RKC Waalwijk in the Eredivisie on Sunday] and got kneed in my thigh. I sat in the dressing room with a towel over my head, thinking the Youth League was over for me. But everyone did all they could, and with two goals and an assist I helped what was a fantastic team performance.
"When I scored, I ran towards our bench, pointing at our staff and the rest of the team. After beating Sporting, they took a picture holding my shirt. It gave me goose bumps when I saw it. I've always let it be known that I'm with the team, even if I'm not there in person."
Jayden Addai, AZ winger: "It doesn't get better than this. This is my first major final, and to win 5-0 is amazing. I'm so proud of the team – we really did this together. In the first half I had the feeling a goal would come, so I kept shooting and passing. The penalty came after good play by Poku, and I felt good about taking it."
On Meerdink's return: "We often play together up front [with Poku]. We combine well and the team knows what our strengths are – and you saw that in the second half with those four goals."
Marko Capan, Hajduk Split captain: "It didn't end well for us today but these silver medals are like gold for us and we all have to be proud with what we did."
Roko Brajković, Hajduk Split forward: "It didn't go well today. AZ were a better team in all segments of play. I can only congratulate them for a great performance, and it will be a lesson for us.
"In the end, this is a wonderful story for us. We did something amazing and it wouldn't be possible without our fans, who were following us wherever we played. I want to thank them for their support."
Borna Buljan, Hajduk Split goalkeeper: "We didn't realise our dream. We were hoping for a win and we wanted to make our fans happy but it didn't look good from kick-off. In the end, we have to be proud of everything we achieved and it's a huge success for us."
AZ: Owusu-Oduro; Goes, Beukers, Mastoras (Van Aken 84); Addai (Kerssens 84), Kwakman, Schouten, Smit (Kalisvaart 88), De Jong; Poku (Gerold 84), Daal (Meerdink 46)
Hajduk: Buljan; Djolonga (Nasor 62), Jurić-Petrašilo, Vušković, Hrgović; Kavelj, Capan (Arković 68); Vrcić (Duić 78), Pukštas, Brajković (Reić 78); Antunović (Skoko 62)
- AZ, the first Dutch side to reach the final, become the seventh different champions in nine editions of the competition.
- This is AZ's first UEFA trophy, though the seniors remain in contention in the Europa Conference League and could become only the second club to win two UEFA titles in a season (not counting the UEFA Super Cup) after Barcelona, who in 2013/14 claimed the Youth League and UEFA Futsal Cup.
- Meerdink ends the season as the competition's joint-top scorer, level on nine goals with Bilal Mazhar of Panathinaikos.
- Hajduk were the first Croatian club to play in a UEFA competition final.
- This was the first final between two teams from the domestic champions path (though 2017 winners Salzburg and 2019 runners-up Chelsea had previously made the final by that method)