Performance of the Season
St James Park
In what can only be described in the most dramatic comeback since Take That reformed, the lads finally found their shooting boots and their focus against the arrogant Louis van Gaal`s AZ Alkmaar team. Written off by many, including the Dutch coach, Roeder`s side traumatised their defenders in the first half. Ripping into the Dutchies from the start, playing a high tempo game and never letting them settle, Oba and Dyer did the damage to the scoresheet, with the Nigerian having his best game in a black and white shirt. Glenn`s choice of Parker and Butt in midfield was FINALLY vindicated as both turned in fantastic games in the engine room. Nevertheless the two goals conceded remain a bit of a worry, especially as AZ`s passing was spot on for most of the second half. A soft award for their penalty really didn`t help but GR`s team should be happy going over there with a couple of goals as a head start, regardless of Alkmaar`s great home record.
United came out of the blocks fast and Duff sent an early cross fizzing across the Alkmaar box. A couple of minutes later he played in Dyer who lashed it across for Steinsson to bundle into his own net. Ebbing from end to end, a miscued clearance from their keeper was eventually chipped back in towards Sibierski who did a deft back heel flick into Dyer`s path for the England international to lash home. A minute later and there was bedlam as long ball picked out Martins in a one on one with the last defender. Jinking past him and the man coming back to cover, he thumped a right foot shot past their keeper. As usual we settled on our score and Shota Arveladze headed Alkmaar a vital away goal. However when Solano`s clever cut back was laced in by Martins to give a 4-1 advantage at half time it seemed cruise control.
The second half saw a massive disappointment in Alkmaar getting a daft penalty for a handball by Taylor. In all fairness there wasn`t really much he could do about it as the ball was kicked onto his hand from all of a yard. Shay saved the weak spot kick but it fell back into play and, after a great Parker block, it was lashed home from about three yards out. Martins missed a great chance to give us back the three goal cushion as he went one-on-one with the keeper and saw his attempted nutmeg saved. However it was a massively encouraging performance by the lads and something they have to replicate against them in their next game. Given how easily Alkmaar have found goals to come by, the focus switched from Martins and Dyer to Taylor and Bramble for the next game. Can they keep their composure and bag us that place in the last eight?