West Ham boss David Moyes looking to conquer AZ Alkmaar again
David Moyes was the first manager to inflict a home defeat in Europe on AZ Alkmaar, and he wants to repeat the trick on Thursday night with West Ham.
Moyes brought a proud 32-match record, spanning three decades, to an end when his Everton side beat Louis van Gaal’s men 3-2 in the UEFA Cup in 2007.
Since then Manchester United, Arsenal, Valencia and Lazio have all tried, and failed, to win at the AFAS stadium.
Almost 16 years later, Moyes brings West Ham to the small city north of Amsterdam bidding to take them to the Europa League Conference final.
“Their record is very good. But I have been here and won before,” said the Hammers boss.
“I remember it well. I have to try to do that again tomorrow night. That’s the job.
“I remember it because I have so much respect for Louis van Gaal and he was the coach at that time. I was still a very young coach learning my way.
“It was my dad who reminded me about the victory, he was here then and he’ll be here tomorrow as well.”
West Ham lead 2-1 from the first leg so know a draw would move them a step closer to a first trophy since 1980.
They have briefly flirted with glory since, notably at the ‘Steven Gerrard’ FA Cup final which they lost on penalties to Liverpool.
“Whether or not it’s our biggest game since the 2006 FA Cup final is probably a question for people who have been at West Ham longer than me,” added Moyes.
“But for this group of players it’s a huge game – we want to reach a cup final but we have a really difficult opponent and if we’re going to get there we’ll have to earn it.
“There are no ‘gimmes’ in football and any team in the semi-final of a competition like this has to be a good side.
“I’ve no doubt we will have to withstand pressure at times, but it’s as big a game for them as it is for us.”
To add to the mystique surrounding AZ’s home record, there is a moat which surrounds their fortress-like ground.
“If you look at our record at home in Europe so far, you can hopefully see it that way. This is our home, we must protect it,” said their London-born coach Pascal Jansen.
“I spoke only yesterday about West Ham’s away record in the Premier League and their results away in Europe, which are stronger, but those statistics are all in the past now – it’s all history.
“Talking about them will not make any difference. We are on the verge of reaching a European final, which would be very, very special, but we have to make it happen.”