Dundee United beat AZ Alkmaar 1-0 in Conference League qualifier

Crowds packed into a sold out Tannadice for the Europa Conference league qualifier.

Dundee United beat AZ Alkmaar 1-0 in Conference League qualifier SNS Group

Dundee United have won 1-0 in the first leg of their Europa Conference League qualifier against Dutch side AZ Alkmaar in an electric night at Tannadice.

Glenn Middleton scored the only goal of the game in his first start for the club he joined in a permanent deal last month but United will feel they could have beaten the Eridevisie side by even more.

It had been a decade since the Tayside club had last played in Europe, 11 years since they last won a game at that level and they haven’t won a European two-legged tie since 1997, but fans packed into the sold out stadium in hope of seeing a return to the nights they had become used to in the 1980s.

And they wouldn’t have been disappointed when it was time to go home after watching their side put in a fine performance against a team with a good European pedigree.

Jack Ross named a strong starting line up mixing experience with attacking intent as former Scotland internationals Charlie Mulgrew and Steven Fletcher both started along with Tony Watt, Dylan Levitt and Middleton.

The home side had a penalty claim waved away when a Watt cross caught the defender in an awkward position but with no VAR at this round the referee’s word was final.

Craig Sibbald forced the first save of the game when Verhulst kept his close range shot out just moments after another Watt cross was too high for Fletcher.

Flecther then found himself in the book following an aerial clash with Beukema just a few minutes after Alkmaar defender Hatzidiakos was shown a yellow for a foul on Watt.

United goalkeeper Mark Birighitti was then brought into the action to save a header from Mayckel Lahdo in what was Alkmaar’s first clear cut chance of the half.

The first half ended scoreless with the Premiership side having the better spells of possession without many clear cut chances.

The second 45 minutes started in much the same way as the first ended with United looking the better side and it was around four minutes old when a chance fell to Fletcher inside the box, but the 35-year-old scuffed the shot wide and his claims for a corner were denied.

And Tannadice erupted on the hour mark when Middleton linked up with Harkes in a one-two and the former Rangers man curled the ball into the net for Dundee United’s first goal in Europe since 2012.

From that the capacity crowd were now demanding more and roaring the home side on to give them as good a lead as possible to take to the Netherlands next week.

And Mulgrew nearly obliged them when he fired a trademark left footed shot just wide of the Alkmaar goal with ten minutes to go.

Alkmaar nearly struck with a sucker punch against the run of play with two minutes remaining but a shot from Pavlidis flashed wide of the post.

They won a corner less than a minute later and then a free kick just outside the box bang on the 90 as they started to put pressure on the United defence, but both chances were cleared much to the enjoyment of the home crowd.

When the referee finally blew his whistle, after what seemed like a lifetime in injury time, the noise nearly blew the roof off the stadium as fans celebrated the win and started to dream.

They know now they are only 90 minutes away from progressing on to the next stage of their European journey and a potential return to the big stage for the former UEFA cup finalists and European Cup semi-finalists.

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