American Exports: Altidore brace puts AZ thru in Europa
AMSTERDAM — It was an eventful night for Americans involved in Europa League playoff-round second legs on Thursday, with Jozy Altidore bagging his second double in five days as AZ Alkmaar punched their group-phase ticket with a 6-0 rout of Aalesund FK.
The visitors arrived holding a 2-1 advantage from home, but were blasted out of the tie at AFAS Stadion. Altidore made it 3-2 AZ on aggregate with a simple goalmouth finish in the 24th minute. It was his first career strike in UEFA tournament play.
At the hour mark, the US striker nodded home a corner kick for his side's fourth of the night, giving him five goals in as many competitive matches with AZ. Altidore left the pitch only three minutes later, however, hobbling a bit from a challenge suffered just before his brace-maker.
Elsewhere, Carlos Bocanegra opened his Rangers account, but it was not enough as the Scottish champs took the express out of Europe after a 1-1 draw with visiting Maribor. The US skipper converted a corner kick 15 minutes from time to pull the hosts to within a goal of advancing.
Fellow 90-minute man Maurice Edu came closest to netting the rally capper in stoppage time, but Maribor 'keeper Jasmin Handanovič smothered his shot from a burst up the middle to preserve the 3-2 aggregate victory for the Slovenian champs.
However, Steve Cherundolo and Hannover 96 are set for Friday's group-stage draw after completing a stunning ouster of La Liga powers Sevilla with a 1-1 away draw. The Reds accomplished their first UEFA round advancement since 1969 with an impressive 3-2 aggregate triumph.
Birmingham City midfielder Jonathan Spector is also invited to the next round after the hosts broke open a scoreless tie with a a 3-0 victory over Portuguese side Nacional.
Clint Dempsey and Fulham also moved on, despite dropping a 1-0 decision at FC Dnipro. Working from a 3-0 lead partially staked by his pair of first-leg goals, the American fired one shot on goal, won two free kicks and served a pair of corners during his 80 minutes on the field.
Anderlecht midfielder Sacha Kljestan will get another shot at the Europa League group stage thanks to a 2-2 share with guests Bursaspor. The former Chivas USA man continued his streak of playing every minute this season for the Mauves, who advanced on a 4-3 aggregate.
Michael Parkhurst and FC Nordsjælland gave it their all, but finally succumbed to a pair of late goals in a dooming 2-1 loss at Sporting CP. With fellow US defender Oguchi Onyewu looking on from the Lions dugout, defensive midfielder Parkhurst and the underdogs defended courageously to keep the tie scoreless until the 77th minute. Then, strikes five minutes apart from André Santos and Evaldo rendered a late Wild Tigers goal as mere consolation.
Also, Brad Friedel served as backup netminder as Tottenham eased on with a 0-0 (5-0) result against Hearts and Jermaine Jones sat out as Schalke advanced with a 6-1 (6-3) victory over HJK Helsinki.