McBride keeps Cottagers alive…Fulham 1, Everton 0

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Brian McBride entered today’s match looking to find the ever-elusive first goal since returning from long-term injury. Timmy Howard entered the match looking to extend Everton’s run of EPL form and let go of the heartbreak that was their loss in penalty kicks to Fiorentina in the UEFA Cup. Both definitely showed up to play. Problem was, McBride has support, Howard didn’t.

Everton played NOTHING like a team chasing a UEFA Champions League spot. Fulham played exactly how they should have – determined, gritty, and for their dear Premiership lives. McBride, however, has had the problem of not getting the service he needs to put goals away. Simon Davies remedied that today and delivered the pinpoint cross that McBride powered past an outstretched Howard for a 67th minute stunner.

Eddie Johnson has been playing well for the Cottagers. Unfortunately, when your fighting against relegation, goals and goals only are used as the measuring stick for how “well” one is playing. Johnson hasn’t found the net yet since coming over joining Clint Dempsey in the goal drought territory. All 5 Americans saw time in today’s game – Keller, McBride, and Johnson started – while Dempsey came in for McBride late and Bocanegra worked a solid part of the 2nd half.

The Cottagers have a stretch of four games that they could certainly win, but it will involve more performances like the one against Everton today. Next 4 games – @ Derby County, @ Newcastle, vs. Sunderland, @ Reading. Good performances away from home are hard to find…especially when Fulham has yet to win away. Hmmm…

What do you think their chances of avoiding relegation are? If relegated, which Americans will stick around in the English Championship? 

I’ll get more up on Olympic Qualifying and this weekend in the EPL tomorrow. If need more input on USA’s 1-0 win over Honduras yesterday, check out Jeff’s take and the live blog of the match, featuring a female streaker.

UEFA Cup: Everton, Tottenham have the heroics but forget the fundamentals

Everton 2, Fiorentina 0  (Fiorentina wins 4-2 on penalties)

The curse of the 12-yard kick. Yakubu faked out Fiorentina’s keeper, but hit the post. Jagielka tried to sky it top left corner, but he missed down the middle instead. Despite Everton’s dominance at home in regulation time, you could sort of tell it was still Fiorentina’s game. Andy Johnson put the first one in, earning vocal support from the crowd for the rest of the game. Mikel Arteta provided the shock, however, ripping a shot from 30 yards out which caught the Italians off guard. This loss stings, but it doesn’t take away from the fact Everton have found consistency in play and a confidence that they belong in the top five. Timmy Howard was in net, but couldn’t get a jump on any of the penalties including Mario Santana’s which sent Fiorentina onto the quarterfinals. With 9 games left in the EPL, the Toffees can now concentrate on finding their way to higher ground – a place they might even deserve to be – the UCL.

Tottenham 1, PSV Eindhoven 0 (PSV wins 6-5 on penalties)

Who else but Dimitar Berbatov to score the equalizer away from home? It was Jermaine Jenas and Pascal Chimbonda, however, who couldn’t hit the crucial penalties that a young PSV seemed to ease through. Berbatov was kept quiet for 80 minutes until – as if not to be shown up by Arteta’s long range bomb – the Bulgarian unleashed a ferocious volley that blew by PSV’s keeper Gomes. The Hotspur were resilient, but one can certainly question Juande Ramos’ need to alter the formations and tactics on the fly – his insertion of Lee Young-Pyo for his first appearance in 2 months, Zokora at holding mid (which I liked actually), etc. They equalized away from home, however, and got the result they needed until the end. Ramos summed it up nicely to ESPN Soccernet…”You can’t train for penalty pressure”. Sounds like another post in the making…

Other Results:

Zenit St. Petersburg 2, Marseille 0 (Zenit win on away goals, 3-3) – it’s not that Marseille didn’t have their chances, but the away goal they let up in France came back to bite them in the ass; Djibril Cisse was kept quiet, while no one had an answer for Pavel Pogrebniak who struck for a brace and put the Russians through

Hamburg SV 3, Bayer Leverkusen 2 (Leverkusen wins on away goals, 3-3) – HSV had the attacking edge, but Leverkusen converted first. Rafael Van der Vaart led a potent attack, however, that mustered three in a decent effort that unfortunately need 4 goals to go through. Theofanis Gekas was again the decider in the issue scoring Leverkusen’s push through goal. Jose Paolo Guerrero and Trochowski also scored for HSV, while Sergei Barbarez found the first goal for Leverkusen.

Getafe 1, Benfica 0 (Getafe won 3-1 on aggregate) – Benfica sputtered to another loss this one coming several days after their now former boss Jose Antonio Camacho left his post (i.e. was sacked). There was no real urgency coming from the Portuguese and Getafe used that to extend their ‘cinderella run’ into the UEFA Cup quarterfinals. Apparently, Manchester United assistant Carlos Quieroz is in Benfica’s sights for the manager’s position – and that would be great news for Freddy Adu.

Anderlecht 2, Bayern Munich 1 (Bayern won 6-2 on aggregate) – Bayern lost the game but won the war and also gave some invaluable experience to some of their younger players in the process. Young Brazilian central defender Breno has a bright future in Munich and he got his first run-out in the UEFA Round of 16. Highly-touted prospect Toni Kroos also played the first half and left seemingly with a knock. Both 18 year olds were a bit outplayed by Anderlecht’s 20-year old Ukranian Aleksandr Yakovenko, but they didn’t need to shine – they just needed to win.

Action Continues…

Werder Bremen vs. Glasgow Rangers (Rangers hold 2-0 lead) – Rangers firmly hold the lead in this one and if they don’t blow up should find themselves in the quarterfinals.

Sporting Lisbon vs. Bolton (Tied 1-1) – Bolton’s Gary Megson has opted for a second-tier line-up in this one as he wants to rest Diouf, Nolan, Jaaskaleinen, McCann, O’Brien, Campo, and Ricardo Gardner for a relegation battle vs. Wigan this coming weekend. Staving off relegation over European glory? Bold, but smart. Still no Johann Smith for this one though.

England’s UEFA teams in trouble, Scots sit pretty

Fiorentina 2, Everton 0

Fiorentina kept Everton to 1 shot on goal…1 measly shot. The chaos started early for the Toffees as the Italians were relentless, attacking from the get-go. Tim Howard was the only thing keeping Everton in the game as Tim Cahill couldn’t get anything working past the midfield, Yakubu was border-line non-existent as well. David Moyes kept pressing onwards though, determined to leave Florence with an away goal. He inserted Arteta and Andy Johnson in an attempt to wake up the offense. No dice. Howard wasn’t beaten until the 70th minute when Zdravko Kuzmanovic rocketed a shot right outside the penalty box. Ricardo Montolivo – a wing midfielder heavily touted in the Serie A – got the second ten minutes later after a nice exchange left him open to bury a first-time volley past Howard. The American goalkeeper was probably man of the match as a rout looked possible from the beginning.

PSV Eindhoven 1, Tottenham 0

The Spurs had their chances, but ultimately it was young Jefferson Farfan’s day. The Peruvian youngster – although it seems like he’s been in PSV’s set-up for the longest time – hit the only goal of the game in the 34th minute. Tottenham has cooled down considerably since their Carling Cup victory a couple weeks ago, but with Woodgate and King returning in the back, you would expect a different score-line. In fact, the two veterans weren’t at fault for Farfan’s goal. Gilberto, who had a pretty terrible European-debut for Juande Ramos, toyed with the ball in the back and Farfan made him pay. He stripped the Brazilian and proceeded to give PSV the 1-0 advantage. Both Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov were firing, but nothing was finding the target and the result stuck. The Spurs now face a tough away leg in Eindhoven come next week – by then, they could be up to the challenge.

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EPL Weekend: Everton Reclaims 4th, Former Goalscorer Forssell returns, Lampard Ejected

Saturday, March 1st

Birmingham 4, Tottenham 1

Not many were expecting this result and it’s pretty certain that not a soul would have expected Mikael Forssell to hit for a hat-trick against the Hotspur no less. Sure enough, that’s what happened. The true ‘nail in the coffin’ came with Sebastian Larsson’s swerving free-kick beating Paul Robinson to his right and putting Birmingham two clear right after half-time. The Blues had Tottenham’s number this season, taking both match-ups, and this is the worst loss Juande Ramos has suffered since his takeover. It’s pretty safe to say that Pascal Chimbonda and Younes Kaboul will never be deployed centrally on defense again. Think of Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu’s worst days together with the Nats and multiply it exponentially. Ramos could barely watch…Birmingham will breathe a sigh of relief though as this puts them a little higher up in the fight for top-flight survival.

Reading 1, Middlesbrough 0

A big win for Reading, against a lesser quality side Birmingham’s opponent Tottenham, but three points nonetheless. James Harper has a knack for scoring those injury time goals then going dormant for a good 10 games, but he made his presence known against M’Boro. The Royals didn’t get many chances, but Shorey and Ingimarsson kept Middlesbrough rather quiet. Bobby Convey didn’t dress.

Manchester United 3, Fulham 0

Brian McBride couldn’t revive his magic versus United as the Cottagers were trampled on from the beginning. Eddie Johnson and McBride coupled up front as Fulham managed several decent attacks, but United got much-needed rest for their stars as their return leg vs. Lyon fast approaches and some contributions from unlikelies. Owen Hargreaves hit his first in a United shirt on a well-taken set piece, while Park Ji-Sung actually tucked away a header to make it 2-0 before half-time. Then with 20 minutes to go, Sir Alex Ferguson put in Ronaldo, Rooney, and Anderson and their entrances quickly pinned Fulham down. A Simon Davies own goal ensured the victory for Manchester and dug a deeper hole for the struggling Cottagers.

Chelsea 4, West Ham United 0

Another outclassing, but this one with a different theme. Lampard converted a penalty early on only to be shown a red after retaliating on a tackle made by Luis Boa Morte. Controversy ensued but by then Chelsea was up 3-0 thanks to Michael Ballack and Joe Cole. An hour without Lampard made Chelsea a much more disciplined squad, taking the chances when they had to. A counter-attack led to Ashley Cole’s first goal of the season (and in a long time) which he converted from a seemingly impossibly acute angle. Needless to say, that was West Ham’s luck. Jon Spector dressed but didn’t play for the Hammers.

Blackburn 1, Newcastle 0

Newcastle’s losses have become less embarassing at least, but regardless, their slide continues. Actually the only real embarassment in this match-up was missed chances. Obafemi Martins is his 30 minutes couldn’t find the target, nor could Michael Owen (who later apologized publicly to his teammates for his inaccuracies). One person who did find the net was young Rover striker Matt Derbyshire and he did it in dramatic fashion, 90th minute to push Newcastle farther down the table. Roque Santa Cruz tested Newcastle’s defense all day, but it was David Bentley who put Derbyshire through for the injury-time clincher. Brad Friedel played all 90 and once again led the Rovers to another shutout.

Other Results:

Manchester City 0, Wigan 0 – Sven-Goran Eriksson was understandably angry after this one as Citeh looks nothing like the first half of the season, Wigan held strong though

Derby 0, Sunderland 0 – Another angry manager in Roy Keane, but at least Paul Jewell should feel an ounce of happiness after this. Poor guy. Eddie Lewis went the whole 90, Benny Feilhaber dressed for the first time in a long time, but overall it was the worst played game all weekend.

Sunday, March 2nd

Liverpool 3, Bolton 1

The Reds were fortunate to be given a 12th minute gift of an own goal. Jussi Jaskaleinen – a keeper not used to odd mistakes like this – seemed to be tracking a Gerrard shot wide but instead corralled it into his own net. The play seemed to demoralize the Wanderers defense as Jussi was busy the rest of the game, playing rather well. Liverpool’s offense was too strong however. Though rumored to be restless at Anfield, Ryan Babel put together a fantastic game scoring the go-ahead goal and terrorizing the wings. Fabio Aurelio added the third with 15 minutes to go with a Jon Arne Riise-like strike. New signing Tamir Cohen pulled back a consolation goal for the relegation strugglers as their job was made worse by yet another home loss. Martin Skrtel is really starting to settle down in the back for Liverpool, but it’s going to take a while before anyone can compare him to Liverpool’s Nemanja Vidic.

Everton 3, Portsmouth 1

Someone should discipline Yakubu more often. David Moyes spouted praise for the Nigerian striker after he struck for yet another two goals in an organized victory over European competition hopefuls Portsmouth. Pompey fielded an odd line-up with Muntari and Kranjcar moving equally on the wings as well as in the middle, but Everton stuck on the course. Yakubu hit for an early goal in the 1st minute only to see Jermain Defoe continue his scoring run with new club Portsmouth and equalize before halftime. Tim Cahill came to the rescue with a high-flying header, wide open, but extremely acrobatic to break the deadlock. Yakubu added the insurance goal with about 10 minutes to go, giving him 18 for the season. With the win, Moyes got the added bonus of rest for an injury-hampered Mikel Arteta who they will certainly need for their final push. Even with the 3 points, Moyes is relatively certain it is Liverpool that will pull out the 4th place finish. What words can I even say about how Tim Howard is playing right now…

Yakubu out to prove he’s no Craig Bellamy: Everton 2, Manchester City 0

The big Nigerian striker provided the first goal in a 2-0 shutout of Sven’s sliding Citeh (and his 16th of the still young season). Last month’s CHI Best XI pick Joleon Lescott added another less than 10 minutes later as the Toffees rode their first half efforts into fourth place, surpassing Liverpool no less. Now they stand within a stone’s throw of Chelsea and their momentum is dangerous. Everyone keeps waiting for this team to have a terrible year, but David Moyes has them extremely consistent and that’s with long bouts with injury over the past season for their talisman Tim Cahill and the African Nations Cup absence and subsequent late return of Yakubu. Lee Carsley was the man of the match and is often neglected for many of his performances, which are never particularly pretty. Regardless, his efforts led to the second goal. The bald headed maniac kept his eye on a ball much of the Man City defense thought to be dead. His resulting cross led to Lescott’s nod-in, catching Richard Dunne on the backpedal.

Is it safe to say yet that Tim Howard is the best keeper in the English Premier League right now? Who’s better? Edwin Van der Sar? Brad Friedel? Fabio Capello’s possible pick for new English goalkeeper – Joe Hart – didn’t exactly have the greatest showing but is certainly showing greater upside than an aged David James, errant Paul Robinson, and equally as inconsistent Robert Green.

UEFA Update: Everton, PSV, and Bremen cruise, Rangers held

EVERTON 2, SK Brann 0

Timmy Howard in net. Yakubu returned from a David Moyes-given suspension (came back late from the African Nations Cup). Everton and Howard overcame a Ramiro Corrales’ former team without the services of Mikel Arteta. Leon Osman and future star Victor Anichebe put two late goals away to secure a third round win.

Zenit St. Petersburg 1, Villareal 0

A Pavel Pogrebniak goal was all it took to beat a lifeless Villareal squad. Guiseppe Rossi came on in the 66th minute but was largely disappointing.

Werder Bremen 3, Braga 0

Werder took care of the Portuguese upstarts with goals from Brazilian defender Naldo, Daniel Jensen, and Hugo Almeida.

Sporting Lisbon 2, FC Basle 0

Sporting can thank Montonegran midfielder Simon Vukcevic for their victory after he bagged a brace to lead Lisbon past a rather tame FC Basle squad led by the firepower of rising star Eren Derdiyok (who recently received his first Switzerland caps, choosing over Turkey).

Marseille 3, Spartak Moscow 0

They can’t exactly keep good form in Ligue One, but at least they can do so in Europe. Benoit Cheyrou, Taye Taiwo, and Mamadou Niang crushed Moscow at home as even Spartak’s Brazilians Mozart and Welliton couldn’t do anything to breach OM’s defense.

PSV Eindhoven 2, Helsingborg 0

The presence of legend can only do so much in some instances. Henrik Larsson struggled to jumpstart the Swedish powerhouses to victory as Timmy Simons and Danko Lazovic took advantage of their lackluster performance to give PSV a victory at home. Keep an out for PSV’s new scoring threat…(if you can pronounce it) Balazs Dzsudzsak. He is a 21 year old Hungarian midfielder/forward that has made a name for himself within the Eredivisie and put a good showing in against Helsingborg.

Anderlecht 2, Bordeaux 1

I guess you can call this an upset, but Bordeaux’s form as of late hasn’t exactly been pristine. Young Czech midfielder Jan Polak and Mbo Mpenza struck for two late goals to overcome Bordeaux’s only scoring chance of the day – a penalty conversion – to grab the win.

Other scores:

Rangers 0, Panathinaikos 0
Galatasaray 0, Bayer Leverkusen 0
AEK Athens 1, Getafe 1

TODAY’s GAMES:

Aberdeen vs. Bayern Munich
Slavia Prague vs. Tottenham
Bolton vs. Atletico Madrid
FC Zurich vs. Hamburg
Rosenborg vs. Fiorentina
Benfica vs. Nurnberg – Word is, Adu might get the start.

Yanks Abroad: Bradley with his 17th! Pickens, Szetela, etc.

Michael Bradley didn’t let his US/Mexico disappearance get to him and continued his scoring ways for Heerenveen. This time, the 20 year old halted PSV’s dominance of the Frisians with a 52nd minute equalizer. It’s 17th goal overall, 13th in Eredivisie play. See below…

Danny Szetela – newly loaned out to Brescia of the Serie B – looked decent in the last 10 minutes of a 4-2 Brescia comeback win.

Oguchi Onyewu played all 90 minutes in a Standard Liege shutout of Rosealare. Unfortunately, Liege couldn’t find any offensive production either. 0-0 tie.

Not one American started for Fulhamerica in a 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough. Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey did get in. Dempsey after the break, McBride with 30 minutes to go. Kasey Keller sat on the bench, but is back and ready for selection. Eddie Johnson apparently got into a reserve game a couple days ago and scored in a 3-0 win.

Timmy Howard won the battle of the American goalies as Everton beat Marcus Hahnemann‘s Reading 1-0 and put them into the relegation zone. Bobby Convey was not selected.

Benny Feilhaber was not selected for Derby’s ass-whooping at the hands of Tottenham. Eddie Lewis is out injured.

Jonathan Spector was a last-minute sub for West Ham United in their 1-1 tie with Birmingham City.

Johann Smith
wasn’t selected for Bolton’s 1-0 loss to Portsmouth.

Matt Pickens was on the bench for QPR’s 3-2 triumph over Southampton. He didn’t play.

Jay DeMerit
was not in the line-up for Watford’s 2-1 win over Ipswich.

Fullback Zak Whitbread went all 90 minutes for Millwall in a 2-0 loss to Nottingham Forest.

Jemal Johnson got on for the last 5 minutes in a MK Dons’ 1-1 tie with Rotherham.

Steve Cherundolo started at fullback in Hannover 96’s 2-2 tie with Karlsruhe. Sal Zizzo was on the bench, but didn’t see any time.

Bryan Arguez
wasn’t selected for Hertha Berlin’s squad and Preston Zimmerman didn’t make the Hamburg squad.

Greg Dalby
wasn’t selected for Charleroi’s game versus Sint Truiden.