The chaff appears to have been separated from the wheat in AZ‘s Conference League poule halfway through the drive. Thanks to Jesper Karlsson, the Alkmaarders booked a tight but deserved victory when visiting CFR Cluj and has already put all the poulemates at a distance.
Cluj is in its own country unthreatened first, but had little to bring against AZ at first. Jordy Clasie struck the pole, Vangelis Pavlidis missed face to face with goalkeeper Cristian Balgradean, but Jesper Karlsson turned AZ’s field balance into 0-1.
AZ stopped getting into trouble in the first half sequel and saw another hit by Pavlidis being frowned upon. The home team started stormy second half and got opportunities through Billel Omrani and Gabriel Debeljuh, but AZ soon seized control.
However, opportunities did not lead to this predominance, let alone goals. As a result, AZ had to be wary during the final phase of the unentertaining second period. Substitute Claudiu Petrila was closest to the equalizer, but his revolving free-kick kissed the top of the bar.
AZ now stands a good chance to bypass the ‘interim round’ after the winter break and qualify as a poulewinner directly before the eighth finals. Close assassin Jablonec had to collect a late 2-2 against Randers FC and stands at four points, three less than AZ. The Danes and Romanians have four and six points less than the leader respectively.