American Exports: Altidore, AZ into Europa round of 16
AMSTERDAM — Jozy Altidore and AZ Alkmaar completed a Europa League sweep of Sacha Kljestan's Anderlecht on Thursday night, posting a 1-0 second-leg win in Brussels to advance to the Round of 16 on a 2-0 aggregate.
In his usual Mauves starting place, Kljestan saw his bid for an equalizer denied by AZ goalkeeper Esteban Alvarado four minutes ahead of intermission. The former Chivas USA man stepped into a 30-yard free kick rocket, forcing the Costa Rican netminder to tip over acrobatically.
Altidore, meanwhile, entered the physical fray just before the break as injury replacement for Charlison Benschop. The US striker drew two yellow card fouls in a solid showing, including one when Kljestan slowed his international teammate with a hearty grab on 53 minutes.
Scant moments later, Marten Maartens' deflected volley doubled the first-leg AZ advantage and the home side was unable to crack the combination in attack. Kljestan helped keep the deficit down with a saving area tackle on Roy Beerens in the 66th minute.
The Cheese Farmers move on to face Serie A outfit Udinese, with the opener set for March 8 in Alkmaar. The 1981 UEFA Cup finalists will be aiming for their third quarterfinal berth in the renamed tourney in seven years.
Meanwhile, three other clubs employing injured Americans joined AZ in the next round.
After Jermaine Jones failed a late fitness test, Schalke advanced thanks to a 3-1 overtime victory over pesky Czech champs Viktoria Plzen. The Royal Blues completed a 4-2 aggregate win, setting up a sweet 16 first-leg visit to FC Twente.
Hannover 96 were missing skipper Steve Cherundolo, but closed out a comfy tie win over Club Brugge with a 1-0 away victory. Through on a 3-1 aggregate, the Reds open their first UEFA Round of 16 bout in 43 years at Standard Liège.
As Oguchi Onyewu recovers from a knee injury, Sporting CP booked passage to the Round of 16 as a 1-0 home win deciding matters against Legia Warsaw. Having scraped a 3-2 tie victory, the Lions must now look forward to the task of tackling EPL leaders Manchester City at home on March 8.