BRILLIANT IPSWICH SURGE TO THREE-GOAL LEAD IN FIRST LEG
Ipswich swept aside AZ 67, the runaway champions of the Dutch League, at Portman Road last night, to leave themselves with every chance of winning the UEFA Cup when the final is resumed in Amsterdam a week next Wednesday.
Although their manager had suggested they would be delighted to take part in an open attacking game, there was never any doubt that the Dutchman were far more more interested in keeping down the score than they were in entertaining.
Their obvious intention was to line up with the score sheet blank on their own ground, where they had scored so freely in previous rounds.
It soon became clear that they were not too fussy about how they achieved that limited objective.
Indeed, I have not seen as physical a team as Alkmaar in European competition for some years. Their tackling was usually heavy, often late and frequently from the back.
Obviously they had heard that Mariner and Gates had been in the wars recently. So this pair became the target of special attention. Mariner had to put up with bruising tackles from behind and was once charged heavily in the small of the back.
Gates also suffered a crunching tackle from behind and was sent full length by a blatantly late one.
But Ipswich stuck to their task sensibly. Muhren and Thijssen succeeded in outwitting their fellow Dutchmen from time to time and were usually the instigators, with the admirably calm McCall, of Ipswich's most promising moves.
Slowly, Ipswich began to find their way into the Dutch penalty box and Gates, then Mariner came close to breaking the deadlock.
Eventually, after 27 minutes the hardworking, uncompromising, well organised Alkmaar defence were at last in real trouble and Hovencamp could do more than handle a fierce shot by Mariner in front of goal.
Adolf Prokop, the East German referee, who had been obliged to award a seemingly endless number of free kick's against the Dutchmen, had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Wark, despite his recently failure to find the target, placed the ball calmly in position, walked back firmly, ran up and hammered it low and hard into the corner of the net.
This was Wark's 34th goal of the season, but his first since scoring his 12th in this competition against Cologne in the semi-finals.
It gave Ipswich the confidence they needed to go forward with even greater purpose and, before half time, Thijssen and Gates only just failed to widen the gap.
I suspect that, during the interval, Ipswich decided that if they kept pushing forward and tightened up their shooting they could win this first leg handsomely.
At all events, they drove repeatedly upfield from the resumption and, within 11 minutes, had widened the gap to 3-0.
Each goal owed as much to persistence as it did to skill. The second came a mere 46 seconds into the second half. Thijssen collected a pass from Wark and, having struck the ball first time against Treytel, he headed it past the off balance goalkeeper into the net.
Ten minutes later, Brazil, who had been in the thick of the battle right from the start, worked his way into the Dutch penalty box and his low cross was glanced with his right boot nonchalantly into the net by Mariner.
Sensing that the tie was running away from them, the Dutch at last attempted to move forward with some purpose. Peters, their midfield general urged them on with one or two penetrative passes and Metgod moved up in support as much as possible.
But not looking anything like Dutch Champions, Alkmaar failed to sustain their counter attack and were soon forced back into their own half by a determined Ipswich.
So Ipswich, showing some signs of tiredness, wisely decided to close down the game and hold onto their lead without undue difficulty, and they can now look forward with some confidence to their visit to Amsterdam.
Ipswich - Cooper; Mills, McCall, Thijssen, Osman, Butcher, Wark, Muhren, Mariner, Brazil, Gates
AZ '67 Alkmaar - Treytel, van der Meer, Spelbos, Metgod, Hovenkamp, Peters, Jonker, Arntz, Kist, Nygaard (Welzl), Tol
Donald Saunders (Daily Telegraph)