Wednesday 28 September 2016

AZ Alkmaar boss has high praise for Dundalk and says Kenny's men play better football than British teams

Harry Clarke

Published 15/09/2016 | 21:37

Gary Rogers celebrates with Ciaran Kilduff and (right) Stephen Kenny
Gary Rogers celebrates with Ciaran Kilduff and (right) Stephen Kenny

They are not the first team to be left applauding Stephen Kenny's side in Europe this season and on the basis of this performance, they won't be the last.

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Dundalk matched their more illustrious Dutch opponents, AZ Alkmaar, all the way in their Europa league opener tonight. They more than matched them for long spells and were well worth a point, according to Alkmaar boss John van den Brom. 

The Alkmaar was left impressed not only by Dundalk's performance, but also by their style of play.

“I was not surprised,” he said. “They’re not a typical British team. They try to play football. In the first half, they were better than AZ with their short combinations and they had more of the ball than us.

“The only time we were better was after the goal and against ten men.”

Dundalk manager Stephen Kenny lauded the courageous performance of his team and vowed qualification is not the end of the road for the Europa League underdogs.

Kenny said his players put their bodies on the line for each other as a side reduced to 10 men held a resurgent AZ Alkmaar during their opening Group D clash in Holland.

Andy Boyle headed clear from the edge of the goal mouth and a last- ditch equaliser from Ciaran Kilduff left the score 1-1 after Stijn Wuytens headed AZ in front and Dundalk captain Stephen O'Donnell saw red.

"That is not it for us, we did not just qualify for the group, which was really our ambition to do that, and just say that is it," Kenny said.

"That is not it for us - it does not have to end here - and we want to show that we can do well in the group and try and get some results."

Kenny said it felt like a win after his semi-professional outfit lost O'Donnell to a second yellow card but recovered to snatch a point.

"To have our captain sent off and to come to Holland and play with 10 men for that period and still have the belief to defend our goal the way we did and to have the belief to come back with the equaliser.

"I thought the players were extremely courageous and I cannot speak highly enough of them."

Kenny praised rampaging midfielder Daryl Horgan for lighting up the stadium with a dazzling display

And when Dundalk backs were to the wall they pulled out all the stops.

Kenny added: "AZ looked like they were going to get a second goal a couple of times and just out of nowhere defenders appeared to make terrific clearances and a lot of players put their body on the line...we have had that spirit over the last three or four seasons.

"It has served us very well and that is why we won back-to-back league titles and won the double - because the players are willing to put their body on the line for each other.

"And while I feel we have a skilful, technical team, you cannot win anything without that real determination within the group to try and fight for each other and they showed that tonight."

Dutch goalscorer Wuytens has been hospitalised with concussion after he clashed with Dundalk goalkeeper Gary Rogers.

AZ coach John van den Brom said: "Everybody saw there was a lot of blood on his head and then there was panic in the team, in the stadium, among the medical staff and the coaching staff.

"I have never seen this before in my career as a player and also as a coach.

"The players they were crying on the pitch with emotion."

Additional reporting by PA

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