Champions Alkmaar make losing start to season

AMSTERDAM - Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar had two players sent off and suffered a 3-2 defeat away at Heracles Almelo in their opening game of the season on Saturday. Brazilian Everton opened the scoring for the home side from a tight angle, then Willy Overtoom profited from sloppy defensive work to double the lead before Mark Jan Fledderus added a third from a free kick after 61 minutes. Alkmaar hitback and scored twice in 60 seconds, first through Graziano Pelle and then Mounir El Hamdaoui but Ronald Koeman's side then lost their discipline after being denied a clear penalty late on when Pontus Wernbloom was fouled. Gil Swerts was shown a straight red for elbowing and then Pelle followed him off for kicking an opponent. Last season's runners-up Twente Enschede cruised to a 2-0 away win at Sparta Rotterdam with Blaise Nkufo scoring before the interval and Bryan Ruiz settling the match 12 minutes into the second half. Willem II Tilburg started with a 3-1 win over Vitesse Arnhem, while Heerenveen and Roda JC Kerkrade shared the points in a goalless draw on Friday.