Brilliant Dundee Utd stunned AZ Alkmaar in the first leg
Dundee United produced a fabulous display to crush AZ Alkmaar in the first leg of their Europa Conference League third round tie.
Glenn Middleton deliciously curled in the only goal with 61 minutes played to give United a slender lead to protect in the Netherlands next Thursday.
Jack Ross’ men impressed at both ends against high caliber opposition, conceding few clear-cut chances.
Alkmaar came closest to netting when Vangelis Pavlidis was denied late on.
But their chances were limited by a home unit who defended with intelligence and composure, a feat that must be matched when the teams meet for the second leg at the AFAS Stadion.
The winner faces Latvia’s Riga FC or Portuguese side Gil Vicente. Their tie is delicately level at 1-1 after the first leg in Latvia.
Tannadice hasn’t seen such European splendor for some time, but this was a night that evoked the spirit of the great Jim McLean and the extraordinary achievements of his historic United teams.
The old stadium was a seething mass of orange, barely a seat, and shook and shook as United found their rhythm.
It took them a while to settle, mind you. Mark Birighitti, their new Australia goalkeeper, twice coughed up possession with loose passes to their full-backs, but AZ Alkmaar were unable to capitalize on their fluidity.
At the time, United were hitting their belts. Ross’s men are always smartly prepared, but they began to break through the Alkmaar ranks with neat interplay, Tony Watt on the left and Steven Fletcher, 35, leading the attack strongly and subtlety
They scored the first effort on goal when Craig Sibbald, an astute Livingston pick-up, danced free into the left-hand corner of the box and struck a left-footed ball past Hobie Verhulst.
At the other end, Birighitti smothered Milos Kerkez and saved comfortably as Mayckel Lahdo headed home as the interval approached.
Four minutes into the restart, Fletcher turned to meet a dropped ball 10 yards out but deflected his half volley wide. Best opportunity yet.
Alkmaar’s main threat continued to emerge from the flanks. Pavlidis curled a brutal effort across the face from the right, aided by a no-look touch from the flying Birighitti. Kerkez pulled off another decent save from the United keeper.
But on the hour, reeling a little from Alkmaar’s flurry, the hosts rallied and landed a haymaker.
Middleton took possession on the right, weaved between two defenders and found Jamie McGrath. The debutant, off the bench in a matter of minutes, deftly turned it over to Middleton.
The winger scooped the ball back up, moved onto his left foot and curled a superb shot past Verhulst from inside the box. The sea of tangerines became a tsunami of euphoric members.
There were moments of nerves in the finals, but not many of them. Alkmaar’s players were placed at the back without the quality to seriously stress the home rearguard.
Bruno Martins Indi let fly after Middleton hacked Milos Kerkez down the left. Ryan Edwards, rising like a colossus, put his head in the effervescent shot. Birighitti jumped to his left to take out another rider from Pavlidis in the final minutes of normal time.
A crucial stop from Birighitti. High headbutt by Edwards. A serious scalp for Dundee United. The job is only half done, but on tonight’s evidence, this dynamic club can dare to dream.
Man of the Match – Tony Watt
A dizzying opportunity presents itself
This was a very convincing European performance from Dundee United in just their second competitive outing of the season.
In the blink of an eye, Ross has taken the foundation laid by Tam Courts and built upon it with astute additions, recruits who have breathed new life into the team.
The tactical discipline and positional diligence typically evident in Ross’ teams were in abundance, but so was ambition, complex football and attacking threat.
Dylan Levitt, back from Manchester United after a good loan spell, looked sharp. Fletcher and Watt were a mighty handful. Barring the odd Birighitti distribution episode, United were largely untroubled at the back. Edwards and Charlie Mulgrew ruled the Dundonian skies.
What they needed, however, was cruelty. A vision of goal, an opportunity taken. Something to defend and hold on to next week when the screws are turned and the pressure is on.
Middleton provided that clinical touch. A tantalizing and dizzying opportunity beckons.
what they said
Charlie Mulgrew, Dundee United captain: “Look, they’re a good team and we knew it was going to be tough at times, but we hung in there and got the goal.
“We’re grateful that the fans came out to support us tonight, they gave us that extra lift and we’re grateful for that, but it’s only half of it. It’s going to be a completely different stage away from home.”
Dundee United host Livingston in their second Premiership game of the season on Sunday (15:00 BST) before facing AZ in the second leg at Alkmaar next Thursday. (20:00).
- 12EdwardsBooked 90 minutes
- 14SibbaldBooked 50 minutes awayReplaced byMcGrathat 59′minutes
- 15MiddletonBooked at 76 minutesReplaced byNiskanenat 79′minutes
- 9FletcherBooked in 32 minutesReplaced byClarkat 90+1′minutes
- 28Cheers Cudjoe
- 3HatzidiakosBooked in 24 minutes
- 31drink itBooked at 59 minutes
- 4Indian Martins
- 10of Wit
- 23LahdoReplaced byvan Brederodeat 71′minutes
- 32de Jong
- 33van Brederode
- 34of Wit
- Vitor Jorge Fernandes Ferreira
End of game, Dundee United 1, AZ 0.
End of second half, Dundee United 1, AZ 0.
failed attempt Attempt missed. Jordy Clasie (AZ) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left following a free kick.
Ryan Edwards (Dundee United) has been booked for a bad foul.
Vangelis Pavlidis (AZ) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Ryan Edwards (Dundee United).
Transfer to Dundee United. Nicky Clark replaces Steven Fletcher.
Offside, AZ. Dani de Wit tries a through ball but Vangelis Pavlidis is in an offside position.
Milos Kerkez (AZ) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Tony Watt (Dundee United).
Corner, AZ. Corner taken by Ilmari Niskanen.
failed attempt Vangelis Pavlidis (AZ) right footed shot too high to the right misses to the left. Assisted by Pantelis Hatzidiakos.
Attempt missed. Vangelis Pavlidis (AZ) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the center of the box. Assisted by Håkon Evjen.
Hand by Jamie McGrath (Dundee United).
failed attempt Attempt missed. Charlie Mulgrew (Dundee United) left footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right after a corner.
Corner, Dundee United. Corner taken by Jordy Clasie.
Corner, Dundee United. Corner taken by Milos Kerkez.
Transfer to Dundee United. Ilmari Niskanen replaces Glenn Middleton
failed attempt Attempt missed. Tijjani Reijnders (AZ) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Milos Kerkez.
Corner, AZ. Corner taken by Ryan Edwards.