EPL Daily 2.6.08: Friedel inks new deal, FC Dallas trialist, WCQ/International Friendlies

FRIEDEL: Brad Friedel – which many have overlooked – has the most appearances in Blackburn’s long and storied history. It’s just a shame he wasn’t there when Alan Shearer and the Rovers hoisted the EPL trophy in 1994-95. The 36 year old, internationally retired keeper has signed on until 2010 as Blackburn continues to improve year in and year out.

BENJANI: Even with the transfer window all locked up, one deal was finally brought to a conclusion. Manchester City cited concerns for a knee problem that Portsmouth’s leading scorer Benjani had on surgery to correct 18 long months ago. Their nit-picking – if you want to call it that – allowed Citeh to squeeze out an installment payment plan for the in-form striker. Manchester will pay $7.5 million up front with installments totalling another $7.5 million will follow at Benjani’s 25, 50, and 75 start mark.

SAM STOCKLEY: Although not EPL related and not even really that exciting. FC Dallas will be trialing Stockley – a former Colchester and now Wycombe fullback. At the ripe old age of 30, he has been forced out of the Wycombe line-up and is looking at his options. His contract doesn’t run out until late June of 2008.

INTERNATIONALS: Everton’s Tim Cahill scored the second goal in their first ever Asian World Cup qualifying win. A 3-0 blowout of Qatar. Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung and Fulham’s Seol Ki-Hyeon scored three of South Korea’s 4 goals in a 4-0 drubbing of Turkimenistan. Charlton’s Chinese striker Zheng Zhi scored the equalizer in a 1-1 tie with Iraq to start off their WCQ campaign and kept China from following to a 10-man Iraq side after midfielder Neshat Akram was sent off.

A crap load of international friendlies take place today, featuring all sorts of EPL players – the most notable being: France vs. Spain (17 year old Barca starlet Bojan Krkic was hoping to make his debut but might not due to injury), England vs. Switzerland (England will play its first match under Fabio Capello), USA vs. Mexico, Croatia vs. Netherlands (Holland will be operating with out Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Dirk Kuyt, and Robin Van Persie), Turkey vs. Sweden, Austria vs. Germany, Czech Republic vs. Poland, Italy vs. Portugal, Brazil vs. Ireland (the Irish hope for some luck without a manager on the sideline against the Brazilians, Alexandre Pato will NOT make his debut due to a sprained ankle), Jamaica vs. Costa Rica, and Honduras vs. Paraguay.

Shock Deadline Moves: Benjani, Guzan’s Work Permit status

Benjani to Manchester City (very close at least)! Portsmouth’s best forward move has made Harry Redknapp’s life a living hell now, unless he’s got transfers lined up today. Benjani’s exit, Utaka and Kanu at the ANC, and Dave Nugent out with an injury leaves Portsmouth rather thin at the forward line. Milan Baros has arrived and Jermain Defoe is apparently VERY close to a $26 million move from Tottenham.

Alan Hutton finally completed his move to Tottenham, giving the Spurs a viable right back option and possibly spelling Pascal Chimbonda’s end at White Hart Lane. He can definitely move to the center, but if there’s one person it spells the end for…it’s Canadian Paul Stalteri. Walter Smith is going to like the $16 million that came from this transfer…wonder what he’ll do with it.
Apparently, Brad Guzan’s move to Aston Villa is on the verge of collapsing. The initial reuqest for a work permit has been denied – a subsequent appeal will tell the tale.
Afonso Alves has secured a work permit to play for Middlesbrough. Deal should be completed very soon. With Alves and Tuncay up front, Boro’s front line finally rivals their past pairing of Mark Viduka and Yakubu. Inter starlet Goran Slavkovski might be on his way to Boro which further improves their striker situation. Now what about that defense?

Fulham have signed not one, but THREE strikers in January. Finnish legend Jari Litmanen just arrived and at the age of 36, the former Liverpool, Ajax, Barcelona striker will vie for a starting role with Eddie Johnson and FC Groningen’s Erik Nevland. Does this mean Dempsey will move back to his true position?

Manucho, the Angolan and Manchester United striker who has been making waves at the ANC, is set to move on loan to Greek powerhouse Panathinaikos. He looks to have a very bright future at Old Trafford but will have to wait his turn.

Last but not least, David Beckham – no not transfer news – has to wait for his chance at an 100th cap as Fabio Capello is afraid that celebrity friendlies don’t constitute being “fit”. Hasn’t Capello learned his lesson about leaving Beckham on the sidelines??? No worries as Capello’s roster picks have some people thinking he’s completely insane. Emile Heskey, Curtis Davies (7 total EPL appearances this year, maybe 8), and Michael Owen (who has looked like shit recently), Peter Crouch in. Who deserved the call-up?

EPL Weekend 9.29-9.30: highest scoring match in EPL history; Gunners make it 8; Fulham stays strong

STANDINGS 

Saturday 

Manchester City 3, Newcastle 1

The Magpies had their decent form wrecked by a squad pegged for over-performing, but it seems that after this win many have to recalculate their sentiments towards Sven Goran-Eriksson and his Elano-led squad. The Brazilian was great again, putting on a clinic in forward-thinking passing and then driving home an 86th minute free kick to top it all off. Bulgarian Martin Petrov continued his rekindled scoring drive and former Standard Liege striker Emile Mpenza got in on the action. It was the Magpies’ that struck first, but Citeh then responded with three unanswered strikes. Is Eriksson still just lucky?

Portsmouth 7, Reading 4

Both teams were looking for offensive production and – damn – did they ever get it (in a Philadelphia Phillies sort of fashion; you know score 15 one game, 0 the next). Benjani hit for a hat-trick while a stacked midfield provided the rest – Kranjcar, Sean Davis, Muntari all scored. What happened this game? I couldn’t tell you considering I didn’t have the privilege of watching it, but it certainly hurts the reputation of a normally tough-to-beat, stingy Reading defense led by American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. Shane Long, Dave Kitson, Stephen Hunt, and Nicky Shorey all found the net for the Royals. The shot count was never ridiculous but the accuracy was brilliant and that’s why both teams now have themselves in the record book for highest scoring EPL game.

Manchester United 1, Birmingham 0

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his first of the year in the 51st minute and helped the Red Devils extend their streak of consecutive clean sheets in the EPL to five. Edwin Van der Sar will be missing the Devils’ next match-up however after picking up some ankle trouble before half-time. Either way, Man Utd has shown they can overcome adversity and early shaky play to pull out a result and with Ronaldo back and firing on all cylinders, we should see a very different Manchester United in the weeks to come.

Other Results:

Liverpool 1, Wigan 0

Benayoun is the savior putting the Reds past the Latics in the 75th minute.

Chelsea 0, Fulham 0

The Blues dominated but Kasey Keller stayed strong and only had to deal with 4 on frame (18 overall). Clint Dempsey went the whole 90 again as Fulham got a huge away point. Further bad news for Avram Grants and Chelsea as captain John Terry is now out with a possible fractured cheekbone.

Blackburn 2, Sunderland 1

Brad Freidel took care of a stingy Sunderland squad with the scoring support coming from David Bentley and Roque Santa Cruz in a two-minute double salvo. Grant Leadbitter scored the consolation goal with time running out.

Arsenal 1, West Ham United 0

The sliding Hammers keep on their path downward after Robin van Persie reintroduced himself to the goal in the 13th minute to ensure the Gunners’ 8th straight victory.

Derby County 1, Bolton 1

Derby grabbed a point to the tune of Kenny Miller’s strike as he continues to make his way into the Derby faithful’s hearts. The Scotsman watched as class Nicolas Anelka tied it up less than 15 minutes later. At least the Rams are grabbing some points.

Sunday

Everton 2, Middlesbrough 0

The Toffees welcomed Timmy Howard back to the line-up with a great on-field performance led by the also-returning from injury, dynamic and often forgotten about Mikel Arteta. He hides some games and then struts his stuff against the lower tier teams. Consistently, he’s good – don’t get me wrong, but he puts in world class performances at times and then disappears from the radar for a while. Joleon Lescott is another guy who probably doesn’t get the attention he well deserves. Not only did he score early, but he shut down Mido effectively. Between Arteta and Pienaar, that second goal was one of the best I’ve seen all weekend.