STAGE 5 | SET BACKS AND MINIMALISM
Free from European duties, AZ focus entirely on domestic competitions. However, a slip-up against NAC Breda sees the club eliminated from the KNVB Cup. In the aftermath, Sergio Romero doesn’t know how to deal with his frustration over a crucial error he made during the game and he breaks his hand punching a wall in the dressing room. The air of invincibility that surrounded the team for months has all but evaporated. NAC Breda once again illustrate how AZ can be defeated.
Opponents and rivals cherish hope once more, but not for very long. The tricky away game to NEC in Nijmegen sees AZ struggle, but survive (0-1). The media, the fans, the players and the coaching staff had all nominated it to be a crucial game in the season. An important test was passed.
Utrecht is forced to acknowledge defeat one week later (0-1), but Feyenoord manage to escape Alkmaar with a point the following round. It doesn’t fade anyone.
Minimalism still surrounds the title charge, nobody at the club dares to openly admit the status of title candidate now held by the club. The Woudenstein
trauma is too big. All of that changes when AZ obliterate The Hague in early April (4-1). Only chairman Dirk Scheringa remains cautious.
AZ once again struggle against NAC in Breda. An individual moment of brilliance by Moussa Dembélé eventually seals the deal (0-1). FC Twente and Ajax also win which means AZ can officially claim the title if they beat Vitesse in Alkmaar a week later.
With all the preparations for celebrations in place, AZ stumble and fall against Vitesse (1-2). Two lucky shots by the Arnhem outfit bring an anticlimactic experience to the Victory Stadium and the Woudenstein
trauma is unleashed in full force.
However, less than 20 hours later, the world looks a different place entirely. Ajax get slaughtered by PSV in Eindhoven (6-2) and the title goes to AZ for the first time since 1981. Thousands of fans gather outside the stadium where the players and the coaches have been watching the game between PSV and Ajax. A spontaneous celebration erupts.
Stage 5: thirty one games, seventy six points and a goal difference of +45.