Friedel's execptional effort allows Rovers to draw 0-0 with Chelsea.
By Robert Wagman
| Brad Friedel (left) makes one of his 13 saves against Blackburn's 0-0 draw with Chelsea.
-- Blackburn Rovers web site photo --
(in Washington, D.C.)
and Gary Davidson
(in Washington, D.C.)
(Sunday, September 16, 2007) -- Goalkeepers, it is popularly believed, peak at a later age than field players and there's no better example to support this theory than American Brad Friedel. At 36, Friedel remains one of the top keepers in England.
Friedel has posted six clean sheets in Rovers' nine matches this year as Blackburn has yet to lose.
Yesterday, Friedel was at his best, making 13 saves in a 0-0 draw with host Chelsea before 41,062 at Stamford Bridge. As strong as Friedel has been in the early stages of this season, he was even better in frustrating powerful Chelsea, which was knocked from a tie for first place in the English Premier League.
As the match wore on, Chelsea threw more and more into the attack to no avail and was finally frustrated when Friedel made three difficult saves in stoppage time.
"It was a big result because I don't think we played particularly well, but in the first half I thought Chelsea were on top so it was credit to the defense really." Friedel told reporters after the game. "In the recent weeks, our attacking football has been superb, but this time it was the defense that got us the point. Our form defensively is excellent. In my opinion, any one of us could be 'Man of the Match" at the back -- Ryan Nelsen, Chrissy Samba, Brett (Emerton), Warny (Stephen Warnock) and myself, you can't pick out one person. I thought everyone at the back was outstanding."
Friedel's first league shutout came in Rovers' last action, a 1-0 triumph September 2 over visiting Manchester City. And a week earlier than that, Friedel and his former U.S. men's teammate and current American starter Tim Howard met in a 1-1 draw with Everton. Friedel made five saves to seven for Howard.
Blackburn has yet to lose this season and at 2-0-3 with nine points is in eighth place. Friedel also has yet to concede a goal in four matches in the UEFA Cup, Europe's second-tier tournament. Most recently, Rovers defeated MyPa of Finland 3-0 on aggregate in the second round, starting with a 1-0 victory August 16 in Finland, before coming home to win 2-0 August 30.
The latest American to join the ranks of the Premier League is midfielder Eddie Lewis, transferred to Derby County (fee not disclosed) and escaping the chaos that is Leeds United, the one-time EPL stalwart now mired in the third-division League One.
Lewis, 33, joins former coach Billy Davies, who was his manager at Preston North End before Lewis moved to Leeds three seasons ago. On Derby, Lewis joins American midfielder Benny Feilhaber, who was acquired from Hamburg of the German Bundesliga on a transfer August 10.
Whether Lewis' stay in the Premier League last long is another issue with Derby. Promoted from the League Championship after last season, the Rams bring up the rear of the 20-team EPL at 0-4-1 with a single point.
Any situation has to better than what Lewis endured at once-proud Leeds, which not only was relegated to the third-tier League One, but was docked 15 points in the standings, a punishment for defaulting on bills and player salary obligations after descending into receivership.
In 1992, Leeds was champion of the English First Division, the predecessor to the Premier League
Derby hosts Newcastle United tomorrow. In its last game on September 1, the Rams were thrashed 6-0 by Liverpool (3-0-2, 11 points), which is tied for third place. Lewis was not dressed, nor was Feilhaber, who has taken some time to settle into his new team and now has picked up a minor ankle injury in training.
Lewis previously played in the Premier League with Fulham (2000-02) and contributed an assist in his debut for Derby, a 2-1 home loss to Birmingham City, which profited from a pair of Cameron Jerome goals. After Jerome scored 30 seconds in, Lewis, playing his accustomed position as the left midfielder, sent a cross which Matt Oakley converted into an equalizer in the 51st minute.
U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann made eight saves, but struggling Reading still dropped its third straight league contest 2-1 at Sunderland yesterday.
Hahnemann could do little with Kenwyne Jones beautifully-placed shot in the lower corner of the net in the 29th minute or when a defensive miscue allowed Ross Wallace to score from point-blank range in the 47th. Reading received a goal from Dave Kitson in the 85th minute, but it was not enough,
American midfielder Bobby Convey, whose start to the season was delayed as he recovered from knee surgery, appeared for Reading as a late second-half substitute for the fourth league match in a row.
"I was in the States for two months on crutches. I was sitting on the couch doing nothing because I couldn't move," Convey told reporters. "It was miserable. I couldn't drive or do anything. I sat around, ate food and got fat. My knee was seriously injured and it has been an amazing recovery because I wasn't supposed to play full out until October. They told me two out of 10 people with an injury like mine never played again. That's why now I am happy to be back and don't take anything for granted."
On September 1, Reading dropped its second straight 3-0 decision, this time to visiting West Ham United at Madejski Stadium. Hahnemann made nine saves playing behind a faltering defense.
Promoted to the Premier League after a record-setting 2005-06 title season in the League Championship, Reading was one of the most pleasant surprises last season in the Premier League. Some observers say the second year after being promoted is more difficult because the opposition takes its measure and that certainly seems to be the case for the Royals. Additionally, Reading lost key players who moved to teams higher in the standings.
After a modest start with a 0-0 draw with defending champion Manchester United, a 2-1 loss to Chelsea and a 1-0 triumph over Everton, Reading has sunk to 18th place at 1-4-1 with four points.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector has lost his starting job with West Ham and did not dress for yesterday's 3-0 victory over Middlesbrough.
Two week's earlier, he did get in for the final nine minutes of the Hammer's 3-0 win over Reading.
After finishing 15th in 2006-07 and battling all season to avoid relegation, West Ham added several high-priced new faces. Spector started the first two matches of the season, but since has been demoted to a minor role.
West Ham is 3-1-1 with 10 points, sitting in sixth place, tied on points, but with a game in hand on Everton (3-2-1).
After finishing sixth last season, Everton is off to a good start. Howard had looked good in goal, but did not play in yesterday's 1-0 home loss to Manchester United, still recovering from the left ring finger he dislocated in the U.S. men's 4-2 loss to Brazil last Sunday in Chicago. Against United, Everton used German Stefan Wessels in goal.
On September 1, Howard made six saves for Everton which defeated host Bolton Wanderers 2-1 at Reebok Stadium. The team started the season with a pair of wins then fell to Reading and Marcus Hahnemann 1-0, before running into another hot American keeper, Brad Friedel in a 1-1 draw with Blackburn.
American defender Cory Gibbs, who missed all of last season following surgery for a serious knee injury, is training with Charlton Athletic. He played the first half of a 0-0 practice match with Crystal Palace September 5.
Watford, DeMerit prosper in League Championship
In the second-tier League Championship, U.S. defender Jay DeMerit went the distance, as usual, for Watford, which held onto first place after coming from behind on two late goals by Darius Henderson to edge Southampton 3-2.
A 66th-minute replacement for Nathan Ellington, Henderson tied the game at 2-2 in the 81st minute and won it with a strike from a goal-mouth scramble two minutes into stoppage time.
After spending one season in the Premier League, Watford was relegated back to the second division where the Hornets are 4-1 with 12 points, one ahead of Bristol City (3-0-2) and two above Coventry City (3-1-1)
On September 1, Watford rebounded from its only loss of the season -- a 4-1 thrashing administered by Leicester City -- by blanking visiting Ipswich Town 2-0 at Vicarage Road Stadium. DeMerit again excelled and served at the heart of the Hornets defense
While Watford prospers, strong play by American defender Frank Simek has not prevented Sheffield Wednesday from sinking to the basement with an 0-5 record.
Yesterday, Simek played 90 minutes in a 1-0 loss at Preston North End. Two weeks earlier, it was a 1-0 home loss to Bristol City for Wednesday, which has been outscored 12-4 in league play.
Wednesday is still alive in the Carling Cup, starting with a 3-1 victory on the road over third-division Rotherham at home and then defeating third-tier Hartlepool 2-1 at home. Simek went the distance in both of those matches and a home game with Everton and Howard awaits September 26 in the third round.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent. Gary Davidson is SoccerTimes publisher and managing editor.
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