Liege late show stuns AZ
Standard Liege secured a place in the Europa League after keeper Sinan Bolat scored a late goal.
Last Updated: 09/12/09 10:34pm
Standard Liege secured a place in the Europa League after goalkeeper Sinan Bolat scored a dramatic late equaliser in a 1-1 draw against AZ Alkmaar.
The Belgian side started the night hoping to break into the top two in Group H but they needed a favour from Arsenal away to Olympiakos that failed to materialise.
That left Liege's clash with AZ as a straight shootout for a Europa League spot, with the onus on the Dutchmen to pick up a victory.
Jeremain Lens fired AZ in front with a volleyed finish and it looked set to prove decisive until Bolat ventured forward deep into stoppage time and netted with a header.
The game started scrappily, with a handful of fouls characterising the first five minutes.
Dieudonne Mbokani attempted to get things going for Standard but, when he found space to cross, he mishit his attempt and the ball flew out of play.
Mbokani persisted and, with 11 minutes gone, won a free-kick at the expense of Lens.
Benjamin Nicaise took the free-kick and forced a diving save from Sergio Romero.
Milan Jovanovic was next to try his luck but his drilled effort from just outside the area was blocked by Moreno.
The hosts continued to have the better of the early possession, winning successive corners, which Wilfried Dalmat failed to make the best of.
Hector Moreno made another important block from Mbokani's effort, this time from a good position 12 yards out.
Mbokani was then felled by Moreno as both players chased the loose ball and Jovanovic lashed the resulting free-kick against the crossbar with Romero beaten.
After half-an-hour AZ finally had their first serious chance, Brett Holman working Bolat at the near post.
Lens then caused Bolat to deal with an awkward corner from the left as the Dutch side stepped up their efforts in the final third.
Holman was suddenly causing problems but twice missed the target in the space of three minutes, while Mounir El Hamdaoui also tested Bolat.
It was, then, no surprise when Lens put AZ ahead in the 41st minute when he latched onto Sebastien Pocognoli's cross from the left, steering it home from six yards.
Igor De Camargo attempted a spectacular equaliser on the stroke of half-time but his overhead kick was well saved by Romero.
Lens and El Hamdaoui both had shots on goal early in the second half but Standard were closing down well.
De Camargo should have restored parity when he got on the end of Marcos Camozzato's cross but somehow headed over from six yards.
El Hamdaoui and Jovanovic traded long-range efforts as both sides looked to attack, while Landry Mulemo almost made it 1-1 with a 64th minute header.
Romero continued to impress for AZ, making good saves from Jovanovic and Dalmat to keep the visitors ahead, with De Camargo missing the target with another presentable chance 15 minutes from time.
Despite the willingness of both sides to attack, it looked as though the second half would end goalless until the 95th minute when Bolat, sent up for a final free-kick, nodded Nicaise's cross past Romero.
|Standard Liege||Team Statistics||AZ Alkmaar|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|6||Shots on Target||7|
|7||Shots off Target||3|