NAC and AZ got their respective Eredivisie campaings under way in Breda this afternoon in what proved to be a good end-to-end game; albeit a scrappy one.
NAC lined up with a 4-3-3 and a midfield line that was a constant force throughout the match; holding its line not only to support attacks but also as a line of defence. Many NAC fans might have worried that the formation was too attack-minded for playing against a team like AZ but this was not the case and the lines often linked up well.
AZ on the other hand lined up with a 4-2-3-1 and their flexible midfield proved to be the antipathy of NAC's. In particular Poulsen and Holman had dynamic roles with Holman regularly a part of AZ attacks on ten Rouwelaar's goal.
The game began openly and continued in this manner throughout. AZ were the first team to go close on about 20 minutes from a corner on the right. 10 minutes later, it was NAC's turn to attack and a close range shot was well saved by Didulica. NAC then went on to have the best chance of the half just before the half-time interval when a free kick was put into the danger zone and Dirk Marcellis headed narrowly over his own bar.
The teams went in goalless at the break but in the second period, both teams still looked like they could score at any time. On 49 minutes Gorter put a shot narrowly wide for NAC but 10 minutes later they would find themselves 1-0 down.
The AZ goal came during a sustained attack in the final third. The ball was cleared out the area only to be put straight back in by the AZ midfield. This was pounced upon by Falkenberg who struck the ball home. On 70 minutes the lone front-man nearly added a second after a bursting run into the area from the right was well dealt with by the NAC keeper.
NAC Breda are famously difficult to play away at and proved this to be the case through a good period of attack of their own. This culminated in a ball swung in from the right which was met at the far post by Lurling. The striker pushed the ball back across the face of goal where it was met by the Ghanaian, Amoah, who had a simple tap-in.
In the last 10 minutes AZ looked desperately for a winner to take all three points but this only made the game even more scrappy than it already had been as they struggled to get the ball under control in the NAC area. In the last few minutes of normal time, both teams had a chance to win the game as Amoah mis-kicked a cross from the right before almost straight away down at the other end Gudmundsson turned and shot from the edge of the area only to see his shot go narrowly wide.
Both managers, irrespective of their different tactics and formation, will be pleased with what they saw. Whereas NAC held their lines well and their three attackers combined well to score the team's goal; AZ manager Gertjan Verbeek will be pleased with the way his team tended to dominate possession and areas of the pitch. Although AZ only had one out-and-out striker, I think this was the right decision as Falkenburg had an excellent game and thrived on the support from the midfield. It should though be noted that the team was all too often beaten in the air and perhaps in future should aim to play most of their football along the ground, exploiting the team's possessional dominance and pace more effectively.
Whilst it shouldn't be forgotten that AZ had a difficult game on Thursday in Gothenburg, Sweden for the 3rd qualification round of the Europa League the club from North Holland will still see this as two points lost rather than a point gained. NAC had their chances but it was always AZ who looked like the more confident team.
Nevertheless a point away at Breda on the opening day of the Eredivisie is not something to be entirely disappointed with.