Socceroo Ryan makes crucial penalty save in Alkmaar win


Socceroos skipper and goalkeeper Mat Ryan has guided AZ Alkmaar to the group stage of Europe's Conference League after starring in a penalty-shootout win over Brann.

The Dutch club drew their second-leg tie 3-3 in Norway on Thursday night, locking the teams at 4-4 on aggregate.

Spot kicks were required to break the deadlock and it was the 31-year-old from western Sydney who stepped up.

Launching himself to his right, the acrobatic and airborne Ryan palmed a powerful drive away to give the Dutch club the edge in the shootout, eventually won 6-5.

He was also the team's hero last season when saving twice in a 4-1 shootout win against Anderlecht to put Alkmaar into the semi-finals of the competition.

"Feeling pretty good. We made it hard for ourselves but great character from the guys to get the job done in the end and we go marching on to the group stage now and we try to do better than what we did last season - one better," he said.

Alkmaar will learn who they face in the group stage on Friday when the draw is made in Monaco.

In Birmingham, Aston Villa booked their spot by sweeping aside Hibernian 3-0 on the night and 8-0 on aggregate.

Villa, who won the first leg of their qualifying play-off 5-0 last week in Edinburgh, underlined their superiority over managerless Hibs with goals from Jhon Duran and Leon Bailey before the interval.

Substitute Matty Cash struck his third goal in two games just after the hour-mark as Villa, hosting a European tie for the first time in 13 years, made it four straight wins in all competitions.

The visitors, who gave ex-Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory midfielder Jimmy Jeggo and Central Coast Mariners defender Lewis Miller full games, and used Socceroo Martin Boyle off the bench, couldn't keep pace with Villa who exposed the gulf in class between the sides across two legs.

Also bowing out were Scottish Premiership city rivals Hearts, who went down 4-0 to Greek club PAOK on the night and 6-1 on aggregate.

Hearts used three Socceroos on the night with midfielders Cam Devlin and Nathaniel Atkinson and defender Kyle Rowles all starting.

Some of the other teams to advance were Club Brugge, Eintracht Frankfurt, Besiktas, Fiorentina and Genk.

With PA.