Sun, Sand, Sea and Pacos de Ferreira

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Pacos de Ferreira 0 v 1 AZ Alkmaar (20.09.2007)

Luckily a few Liverpool fans that were staying in our hotel informed us that the nights UEFA Cup offering – Pacos de Ferreira v AZ Alkmaar – was being played at a Boavistas Esatdio de Bessa XXI, and not Pacos’ Estadio do Mata Real.

Pacos de Ferriera’s ground has a small capacity of 5,200 and unbeknown to us at the time wasn’t going to meet UEFA requirements. That piece of chance information was a godsend and saved us a tricky excursion out to Pacos de Ferreira – there was no train links and we had been prepared for a difficult combination of bus journeys to try and get to the match.

With the game being played in Porto itself – we could now unashamedly allocate the full day to lying on one of the city beaches, lapping up the mid September sunshine. Praia Castelo do Queijo (Castle of Queijo beach) is located on the western side of the city in the district of Matosinhos and happens to be fairly close to the Estadio de Bessa XXI. The stadium lies on one of the main roads – Avenue Boavista – that connects directly to the beach.

There are certainly worse ways to prepare for going to a european football match, but sitting on a beach, in 30 degrees heat, drinking ice cold beer is one i would highly recommend! As the sun thought about setting we retired to one of the beachside bars and the pre match beers naturally started flowing over a game of cards.

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Sunset over Praia Castelo do Queijo – Matosinhos District

Inside the ground, and with most of the stands empty, the stadium resembled a giant chequerboard. A fair few Pacos fans had made the short 20 mile journey to see their team play their first ever European tie. But with such a small home stadium they were never going to make a dent in Boavistas 28,000 capacity. AZ Alkmaar had a small group of die hards that had made the journey over from Holland – about 45 of them stuck up in the upper tier.

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The 45 or so die hard AZ Alkmaar fans!

The Pacos fans did their best to create a decent atmosphere – not easy given the circumstances – but their pre-match tifo was a decent effort and added a bit of colour to proceedings!

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The game was one of those tight encounters with little goal mouth action or much to shout about. It remained that way until AZ’s Pocognoli scored a ‘last minute winner’ to give them a 1-0 first leg advantage. I think many fans would take the offer of a crap game in return for a last minute winner – there’s not much to compare to that feeling of nicking the win and giving your opponents little time to respond! The second leg appeared to be equally as tight as the first, and AZ went through 1-0 on aggregate over the two legs.

Looking back over the team line ups, there was a young player that started for AZ that night by the name of Mousa Dembele. Whilst at the time there was nothing stand out about his performance (and he didnt make my scout report!) it was only a few years later that he was making his mark on the Premier League with Fulham and subsequently with Spurs.

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