Friedel is sent off from Villa's 5-0 rout at hands of Liverpool.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Tuesday, March 24, 2009) -- As if United States goalkeeper Brad Friedel wasn't already seeing red from the volume of balls getting by him, Friedel was shown a red card and was ejected from Aston Villa's 5-0 drubbing at the hands of host Liverpool Sunday in the English Premier League.
After getting shelled for four goals, Friedel found himself facing Fernando Torres one-on-one in his penalty area in the 64th minute and resultantly took the attacker down, leading to his expulsion. This brought on another American keeper Brad Guzan, who went the wrong way on Steven Gerrard's subsequent, successful penalty kick, closing the scoring in the rout. It was Gerrard's third goal of the match and Guzan's first-ever appearance in the Premier League.
Friedel had gone 180 straight matches over five years without getting sent off with a red card.
Villa found itself down by three goals by halfime. There was little Friedel could in the eighth minute when Gerrard's corner kick was flicked onto the bar by Xabi Alonso's head and cannoned back to an unmarked Dirk Kuyt, whose smash from the middle of the box went through players and into the net.
In the 32nd minute, Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina's long boot dropped directly into the run of Alberto Riera, who used his first touch to fire a shot into a top corner of the net, just beyond Friedel's reach. Gerrard made it 3-0 with a penalty kick that sent Friedel the wrong way in the 39th minute.
Gerrard notched his second tally in the 50th minute with a beautifully taken free kick with Villa weakly defending. Then came the penalty, the red card, and Friedel's long walk to the bench, the first time in 180 consecutive matches going back five years he has been ejected.
Villa has now gone winless in eight matches and found itself ousted from the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and going in the wrong direction in league play. Villa is still in fifth place in the Premier League at 15-8-7 with 52 points and, should it reverse its results, still only three points behind fourth-place Arsenal (15-5-10) for a position in next year's European Champions League play-in.
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey played a leading role in Fulham's surprising 2-0 upset of league-leading Manchester United at home at Craven Cottage. United saw Paul Scholes shown a red card in the 17th minute and Wayne Rooney in the 88th, and could not overcome the loss of the two players.
Dempsey did not score, but came very close a number of times. In the second minute, he was inches wide on a sharply angled drive. In the 29th minute, he again missed by inches wide and, three minutes later, his cross to Dickson Etuhu forced Edwin Van der Sar to make a brilliant save on the subsequent shot.
Dempsey received a yellow card in the 72nd minute.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard and visiting Everton gave up a pair of goals to Peter Crouch, wasting a lead in dropping a 2-1 decision to Portsmouth at Fratton Park. Howard made good saves on David Nugent and Crouch, but was beaten by the towering striker in the 22nd and 76th minutes, the first on a powerful header and the second on a short poke from a goal-mouth scramble.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector went the distance for West Ham United in a 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers. Rovers had the run of play throughout the match, but Spector and the West Ham back-line did well to keep the match close.
Last week, Steve Coppell was apologetic when he replaced young Adam Federici in the Reading net with veteran American keeper Marcus Hahnemann, saying Federici had played well while Hahnemann was injured, but he needed Hahnemann's experience in goal. Hahnemann has rewarded Coppel by earning three clean sheets in a row, including making eight saves in a 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace and Selhurst Park.
In the opening minutes of the second-tier English League Championship game, Hahnemann nabbed a header from Antony Stokes, then stopped Michael Duberry in the 21st minute and Nathaniel Clyne's blast as the first half ended. In the second half, Hahnemann denied Victor Moses.
Reading's problem is that it has trouble scoring and managed only one goal in those three outings, so the Royals (19-9-11, 68 points) remain in third placing, trailing Wolverhampton Wanderers (23-9-8, 77) and Birmingham City (20-8-12, 72) for the two automatic promotion berths to the Premier League.
Watford captain Jay DeMerit suffered an unusual injury in a 0-0 at Ipswich Town and Portman Road. In the first half, the American stuck out a leg to block a blast from David Norris, which led to numbness in his lower leg and foot, requiring him to be replaced by Gavin Hoyte in the 50th minute.
Goalkeeper Scott Loach was the hero for Watford with 13 saves, including some beauties in the second half.
Watford manager Brendan Rodgers did not consider DeMerit's injury serious. "He made a real brave block towards the end of the first half and his foot went a bit numb," Rodgers said. "We looked at it at half time and our medical team felt he could be alright, however you could see he was struggling to move and we didn't want to make it worse. At this moment, Jay is fine and will travel on his international duty with America next week."
In a weekend of a number of scoreless draws, American defender Frank Simek was on the bench, but did not play in Sheffield Wednesday's 0-0 with Swansea City.
In an odd Sunday match, U.S. striker Eddie Johnson came on in the 76th minute of Cardiff City's 3-0 loss to Sheffield United at home in Wales. Two City players, strikers Michael Chopra and Ross McCormack, were shown red cards in the 26th and 31st minutes, respectively, leaving City to go into a defensive shell to no avail.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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