AZ have taken a big step towards the Europa League after beating Utrecht 3-0 in the first leg of their European playoff.

Utrecht went into the tie as slight favourites, judged on finishing fourth in the table and their recent form. It was the visitors who got the first opportunity of the game, but Sebastien Haller could only fire wide.

However, AZ have had one shining light in the playoff so far in 18-year-old winger Calvin Stengs, who netted in both legs against Groningen. On 17 minutes, the young winger turned provider as he sent Joris van Overeem through on goal with a lovely pass, and the midfielder made no mistake with his finish to make it 1-0.

Just before the half-hour mark, AZ doubled their lead with Stengs once again playing a big role. The winger cut in from the right before his cross was diverted into his own net by Utrecht midfielder Yassin Ayoub.

Utrecht were stunned by the goals and AZ threatened to run riot as chances kept coming and going for the hosts. Wout Weghorst, should have made it 3-0 before the break from another Stengs cross, but the striker couldn’t beat David Jensen.

Eventually, Weghorst did seal the win AZ in the 65th minute by heading a free-kick into the net off the post.

Utrecht couldn’t find a crucial away goal before the end and they now face an uphill battle in the second leg on Sunday if they are to prevent AZ from taking their place in the Europa League.

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