Dutch club AZ Alkmaar narrowly squeezed into the group stage of the Europa League after a dramatic tie with Atromitos of Greece was halted when a fire broke out at their stadium on Thursday and they had to return for the last 31 minutes on Friday.

The match was stopped after 59 minutes on Thursday when an electrical short circuit led to a blaze on the fifth floor of the AFAS Stadium and the subsequent failure of the floodlights.

AZ trailed 1-0 at the time and conceded a second goal on Friday. Despite losing 2-0 at home, however, they went through on the away goals rule after winning last week’s first leg 3-1 in Greece.

Thursday’s blaze caused damaged estimated at 500,000 euros (426,608.17 pounds), the club’s general director Toon Gerbrands told Dutch television on Friday.

The short circuit, which occurred in one of the electrical boxes for the floodlights, caused smoke and fire clearly visible to the referee, who halted the game to allow the crowd to evacuate the venue and the blaze to be dealt with.

UEFA ordered the match to be completed on Friday so that the winner would be known before the draw for the group phase of the Europa League which was being held in Monaco later in the day. [Reuters]

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