Howard, Everton are on the upswing in English Premier League.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Wednesday, March 18, 2009) -- With American Tim Howard in net, Everton continued its winning ways. Howard was called on for a single save and Everton defeated Stoke City 3-1 in the English Premier League.
After being down 2-0, Stoke, which recently overcame a two-goal deficit to tie Aston Villa, looked like it might do it again when Ryan Shawcross headed home a Liam Lawrence corner kick after 53 minutes. But the Everton defense tightened up, Howard made a good save and a late goal iced the triumph for the visitors.
Everton is in sixth place at 13-7-9 with 48 points.
On March 8, Howard played well for Everton, which received a goal in the 50th minute from Marouane Fellaini and one six minutes later from Louis Saha to defeat host Middlesbrough 2-1 in the FA Cup semifinals.
David Wheater put Middlesbrough ahead 1-0 with a goal in the 44th minute.
Howard had some late help to prevent Boro from tying. Deep in stoppage time, he got to a free kick from Gary O'Neil, but could not hold the spinning ball, but Joleon Lescott came to the rescue by sweeping it clear.
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey and Fulham have been up-and-down lately. On Saturday, Fulham scored its first win away from Craven Cottage since the final day of last season with a 3-1 victory over Bolton Wanderers.
Dempsey played 90 minutes for Fulham, which prevailed because Bolton defender Andy O'Brien handed Cottagers a pair of goals with two huge blunders.
Fulham is in ninth place at 9-10-10 with 37 points.
Fulham needed the decision badly. Going into the match, it had lost two straight league matches. Last Wednesday, despite an early goal by Dempsey, Fulham fell 2-1 to Blackburn Rovers at Craven Cottage.
Dempsey, playing on the left side of midfield, scored the only goal of the first half in the second minute. On the left flank, Danny Murphy fed him a short pass into the middle and Dempsey drilled a right-footed blast low and into the center of the goal from the penalty spot.
Blackburn came back with a pair of goals in the second half. Dempsey had several hard shots, but they were wide or blocked by the defense
On March 7, Fulham was no match for red-hot Manchester United and fell 4-0 at home in the FA Cup quarterfinals. Dempsey went the distance, but with Fulham back on its heels for most of the match, his role was mainly defensive.
American goalkeeper Brad Friedel and Aston Villa have had a frustrating time, dropping two straight, hampering their attempt to finish high enough in the Premier League to qualify for European competition next season -- maybe as high as fourth and a chance at the Champions League.
On Sunday, Villa went down at home 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur. Friedel was not culpable on either goal. In the fifth minute, Luka Modric sent ball wide to Aaron Lennon who whipped a wicked curving shot that Friedel blocked, but Jermaine Jenas was first to the rebound and nodded it into an unguarded net.
In the 50th minute, Aaron Lennon beat a defender, but was stripped with the ball falling to the feet of Wilson Palacios, who blasted it. Friedel made the save, but it fell to Robbie Keane. Friedel stopped his shot, but Darren Bent pushed the loose ball across the goal-line to make it 2-0.
Friedel kept the match close with two excellent saves on Keane in the second half before John Carew narrowed the Lions deficit to 2-1 in the 85th minute.
At City of Manchester Stadium last Wednesday, Villa dropped a 2-0 decision to Manchester City. Friedel made terrific saves on blasts from Blumer Elano and Shaun Wright-Phillips, but could only get a hand on Elano's 24th-minute penalty kick and a Wright-Phillips drive as the match entered stoppage time.
Villa (15-7-7, 52 points) is tied on points with fourth-place Arsenal (14-5-10), which is seven better in goal differential.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector again found himself as an early injury replacement for West Ham United Monday night in a hard-fought 0-0 draw at home with last-place West Bromwich Albion at Upton Park.
West Ham defender Matthew Upson was carried off in the 29th minute and Spector replaced him, contributing some quality play in the defensive struggle. West Brom nearly won in the dying minutes when Shelton Martis hit the crossbar, but Jonathan Greening could not put the rebound on target.
Spector came on in the 78th minute in last Wednesday's 1-0 triumph over Wigan Athletic after midfielder Jack Collison went down with a serious knee injury which could cause him to miss the rest of the season. Spector's job was to help kill off the match.
West Ham is in seventh place at 11-11-7 with 40 points.
In the second-tier English League Championship, American goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann was masterful in goal Tuesady for Reading, which used a late goal by Dave Kitson in the 82nd minute to edge host Doncaster Rovers 1-0 at Keepmoat Stadium.
Hahnemann made eight saves to keep Reading in position to win.
After missing 15 matches since mid-December, first with a serious shoulder injury and then being unable to displace young keeper Adam Federici, Hahnemann returned to the lineup and played well despite a 1-0 home loss Saturday to Ipswich Town at Madejski Stadium.
The only ball to get by Hahnemann was on a spectacular bicycle kick by Jon Stead.that left the American no chance. Hahnemann kept Reading in the match when he made a superb save on Kevin Lisbie's header.
After the match, Reading manager Steve Coppell admitted he "felt terrible" replacing Federici. "He's played well for us," Coppell told reporters, "but I just thought that Marcus's extra experience would help us at this stage of the season."
Reading is in third place at 19-9-10 with 67 points, but has a game in hand on the two teams above it -- Wolverhampton Wanderers (22-9-8, 74 points) and Birmingham City (20-8-11, 71). The top two teams are promoted to the Premiership, while the third-through-sixth-place clubs play off for a third promotion berth.
American defender Jay DeMerit, having had several days in training following a calf injury, started for Watford tonight and the Hornets dropped a 2-1 decision to host Cardiff City with the winning goal coming on a penalty kick deep into stoppage time by Ross McCormack.
Tommy Smith put Watford ahead with a penalty kick in the 10th minute, but Jay Bothroyd pulled Cardiff level four minutes later.
DeMerit's bad leg apparently was not bothering him as he took many of Watford's free kicks and made several defensive clearances late in addition to receiving a yellow card.in the 87th minute.
U.S. striker Eddie Johnson dressed, but did not play for Cardiff.
DeMerit missed four matches with a calf strain that proved more serious then first thought. This was not the same injury -- a thigh strain -- that kept him out for almost two months earlier in the season, but was on the same leg.
DeMerit was out for Saturday's 2-2 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. American defender Frank Simek, who himself has been injured and in and out of the Wednesday lineup, came on for Tommy Spurr in the 70th minute.
Watford looked like the winner until in the fifth minute of injury time. Jon Harley fouled Jermaine Johnson in the penalty area and the penalty kick was converted for the tie.
Johnson came on in the 69th minute and nearly scored in the 86th minute when he hit the post with a diving header of Cardiff City's 1-1 draw Sunday at Bristol City.
On March 7, Johnson recorded his first goal for Cardiff in a 3-0 victory over Doncaster.
Johnson came on in the 34th minute and in the 60th, he took the ball down the right side to about 20 yards from the end-line, cut across the field diagonally, beating two defenders, and hooked a left-footed shot into the net for Cradiff's final tally.
Johnson's strong effort earned him a start three days later and he went the distance in a 2-0 loss at Norwich City.
In the third-division League One, American striker Jemal Johnson went 75 minutes in MK Dons' 1-0 loss Tuesday at Millwall.
American forward Mike Grella came on for Ben Parker in the 84th minute of Leeds United's 1-0 victory Saturday over Swindon Town. On March 10, Grella went 18 minutes as a reserve in Leeds' 4-0 win over Yeovil Town. Three days earlier, he dressed, but did not play in a 2-2 tie at Bristol Rovers.
In Scotland, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu and Glasgow Rangers suffered one of their most embarrassing home losses in years, falling 1-0 to last-place Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Edu started and went 64 minutes before being replaced as Rangers could not generate much attack despite dominating the midfield. The shocking loss came after David Weir was shown a red card for hauling down David Proctor in the box in the final minute and Ian Black converted the subsequent penalty kick.
Rangers (18-4-6, 60) fell out of a first-place tie with crosstown rival Celtic (19-3-6, 63)
On March 8, Edu played 18 minutes as a reserve in Rangers' 5-1 Scottish Cup win over Hamilton Acadenical.
U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley dressed for both matches, but did not play in either.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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