AZ Alkmaar are through to the knockout round in the Europa League after an excellent 3-2 win over Zenit St Petersburg.

haps-az-zenitThe hosts came into the game knowing a victory over a strong Zenit side, that had already qualified, would book their place in the next round, while a draw would be enough if it matched the outcome in Maccabi tel Aviv v Dundalk.

AZ came bursting out the traps and took the lead after only seven minutes with Ben Rienstra stealing the ball just outside the box before sending a shot into the bottom corner.

Zenit then woke up and they tested Sergio Rochet on several occasions but the goalkeeper stood firm and just before the break AZ made it 2-0. Ridgeciano Haps received the ball on the left-hand side of the box, cut in past his marker and found the bottom corner with his shot.

AZ started the second half brightly with Wout Weghorst and Robert Muhren going close, but Zenit pulled one back through Giuliano just before the hour mark.

Muhren had the chance to immediately calm any nerves but he couldn’t beat the goalkeeper after racing through on goal. On 69 minutes it was 3-1 with Maumer Tankovic sending the home side into raptures with a stunning strike from distance.

A late own goal by Stijn Wuytens ensured a nail-biting end but, despite pressure from the Russians, AZ held firm to book their place in Monday’s draw.

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