FC Utrecht will be playing in Europe! The Domstad team beat AZ 3-0 at home today (Sunday), and then knocked out the North Hollanders on penalties.
It would be almost impossible to make up such a scenario. It would certainly be a box office smash. From the beginning to the end: FC Utrecht won! FC Utrecht cheered! FC Utrecht celebrated! FC Utrecht threw a party! Because FC Utrecht are going into Europe. “From your Euro, Euro, Euro” chanted the fans, “Utreg are on their way!”
The match between Utrecht and AZ was really total madness. What happened on the pitch was beyond belief. It was too good to be true. Too fantastic to make up. Too exciting to be possible. Too high to climb. But it happened. Utrecht went into the game 3-0 down after the first leg, and had a lot to do in the Galgenwaard. The players came out of the starting blocks like furies. The supporters chanted for ten goals and AZ stood with their back against a strong Utrecht wall.
The miracle of the Water Line
And then, slowly but surely, it all came together: the miracle of the Water Line. Willem Janssen scored the 1-0 after ten minutes and the Galgenwaard was transformed from a football temple into a pressure cooker. Utrecht could stand the pressure, but AZ buckled. They fell into the trap set and executed by the 11 Utrecht players, with a helping hand from the 12th man.
Haller gives an extra boost
Thirty minutes had been played when La Cucamarcha rang out of the speakers again to celebrate the 2-0, scored by Sébastien Haller. The faint hope before the game had been fed by the 1-0 but was boosted when the Frenchman scored his 51st goal for Utrecht. Everyone one on the field and in the stands seemed to understand: not only could it happen today, it would! One way or another Utrecht would get what they deserved: European football.
Utrecht faced two opponents after half time: AZ and the clock. The 2-0 lead was nice but not enough. A third was needed. A third goal was essential. Attack after attack rolled over the green sea in Utrecht, and with success. With AZ down to ten men following a red card for Derrick Luckassen, Tim Krul let in the third. Gyrano Kerk was the golden boy, 3-0 was the score.
Time stood still
In the final minute of injury time it seemed that time stood still. The score was 3-0 and Utrecht had won a penalty. Sébastien Haller stepped up to the ball. In his career with Utrecht, he had taken 15 spot kicks and never missed when it mattered. The goalie, Tim Krul, is renowned for his successful defence of penalties in the 2014 World Cup that put the Netherlands past Cost Rica. His save today meant the match went into extra time.
Thirty minutes extra time – no goals
The 30 minutes of extra time that followed under the burning sun saw a war of attrition. But apart from pain and thousands of drops of sweat on the turf of the nicest place on earth, it was unproductive. Referee Pol van Boekel blew the final whistle to signal the start of the penalty series.
Ice cool in the searing heat
And then Utrecht showed they could do more than just roll up their sleeves. They also had the ability to keep their heads cool. In the searing heat after 130 minutes of football, trainer/coach Erik ten Hag’s team completed the miracle of the Water Line from the penalty spot. Nacer Barazite scored the winner, the Galgenwaard exploded, burst into ecstasy and enjoyed. FC Utrecht will be playing in Europe. ‘And from your Euro, Euro, Euro, Utreg are on their way!’
FC Utrecht - AZ 3-0 (2-0) (FC Utrecht win after penalties)
12. Willem Janssen 1-0
28. Sébastien Haller 2-0
82. Gyrano Kerk 3-0
Pantelis Hatzidiakos (AZ) misses (0-0)
Sébastien Haller (FC Utrecht) scores (1-0)
Stijn Wuytens (AZ) scores (1-1)
Willem Janssen (FC Utrecht) scores (2-1)
Joris van Overeem (AZ) misses (2-1)
Zakaria Labyad (FC Utrecht) scores (3-1)
Fred Friday (AZ) scores (3-2)
Andreas Ludwig (FC Utrecht) misses (3-2)
Ron Vlaar (AZ) scores (3-3)
Nacer Barazite (FC Utrecht) scores (4-3, FC Utrecht win after penalties)
Yellow cards: Willem Janssen (FC Utrecht), Wout Weghorst, Dabney dos Santos, Tim Krul (all AZ).
Red card: 67. Derrick Luckassen (AZ, two yellow cards).
Referee: Pol van Boekel.
FC Utrecht line-up:
David Jensen; Giovanni Troupée (52. Mark van der Maarel), Ramon Leeuwin, Willem Janssen, Edson Braafheid (73. Nacer Barazite); Wout Brama, Sean Klaiber, Yassin Ayoub (89. Andreas Ludwig), Zakaria Labyad; Gyrano Kerk, Sébastien Haller.
Tim Krul; Jonas Svensson, Ron Vlaar, Derrick Luckassen, Ridgeciano Haps; Mats Seuntjens (56. Ben Rienstra), Joris van Overeem, Stijn Wuytens; Calvin Stengs (70. Pantelis Hatzidiakos), Wout Weghorst (64. Fred Friday), Dabney dos Santos.