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.

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EPL Daily Halloween ’07: EPL’s Best Imports; An American in Iran, Palacios, and Wonderkids

About to start a feature of the same name, I came upon The Sun’s version of the EPL’s Top 10 best imports. I would have to agree with most of them and would even put Mikel Arteta up higher on the list but if Arteta is on there – where is Timmy Cahill, who has arguably done the most for an Everton squad that performs well on a consistent basis (unlike say…a Bolton?). Also not included – and it’s clear they opted for the more offensive approach – was Serbian central defender Nemanja Vidic who has been rock-solid for Manchester United in his first year and half in the league. The Sun’s Number One? Cristiano Ronaldo – I don’t think many can complain about that. Any they missed?

Not EPL news persay – but it was in an English publication – Iranian soccer hopefuls don’t know how to react with the prospect of an American citizen Afshin Ghotbi taking over the reins of Persepolis (Tehran’s biggest team) looming over them. Ghotbi hasn’t returned to the country in over 30 years. He began his coaching career at UCLA, found his way onto the USMNT staff for the 1998 World Cup in France and has now acted as somewhat of a coaching mercenary over the past 10 years. Read about it here

Wilson Palacios – the former CD Olimpia midfielder and now Birmingham City man who gave D.C. United a lot of trouble in the early season CONCACAF Champions Cup – has recently found out that his 15-year old brother – Edwin Rene – has been kidnapped. No real news as of yet – Palacios is staying in the UK but apparently has clearance from Steve Bruce and the Birmingham organization to leave if ever he deems it fit to do so.

Yet another 16-year old phenom on the rise? John Bostock of Crystal Palace looks to follow the route of Joe Cole, Wayne Rooney, and Theo Walcott and become the next coveted English prospect. His story is interesting but no one can fathom the thoughts going through Scotskid James McCarthy’s head right now as Barcelona, Liverpool, Celtic, Deportivo, and Arsenal are ALL fighting for his signature. As it seems, he’s pretty content to develop at Hamilton Academical and move on when necessary – but you can bet if Barca comes a-knocking it won’t take too much cash to pry him away.