Strange own goal undoes Howard, Everton in 1-1 draw with West Ham.
By Robert Wagman
(in Washington, D.C.)
(Wednesday, December 29, 2010) -- The schedule in England was an odd mix this year with most matches played on Sunday and again on Tuesday, each a day later than usual. Between massive snowfall and Christmas coming on a Saturday, the traditional Boxing Day, and with some feature television games competed on Monday and Wednesday, the week took on a strange feel. However, with both Germany and France on holiday break, England is where most Americans played over the past week.
United States goalkeeper Tim Howard has likely never given up a goal as odd as the own goal credited to teammate Tony Hibbert for Everton in its 1-1 English Premier League draw with West Ham United on a visit yesterday to Upton Park. Howard did well to parry West Ham defender James Tomkins' hard header off a corner kick. The ball went to West Ham midfielder Radoslav Kovac, who tried a wild overhead kick that seemed quite harmless until it took a huge deflection off defender Hibbert and into the net. Howard could only watch helplessly.
Everton had several late chances to win, but came up empty.
West Ham defender Herita Ilunga, who has been out for more than a month and was being replaced by American Jonathan Spector, returned to the lineup, so Spector found himself back on the bench. But, not for long. Ilunga could not go past the half hour and Spector came on to finish the match.
Howard got a day off Sunday when Everton's game with Birmingham City was postponed because of the weather.
Spector dressed, but did not play Sunday in West Ham 3-1 victory over Fulham.
American Clint Dempsey started on the front line for Fulham and played 54 minutes. U.S. striker Eddie Johnson came on when Dempsey went off, replacing Dickson Etuhu for the Cottagers
On Tuesday, Fulham moved one foot out of the relegation zone, using a pair of early long goals by defender Chris Baird in a 2-0 road win over host Stoke City at Britannia Stadium. Dempsey went the distance, receiving a yellow card in the 90th minute.
Johnson was not dressed on Tuesday.
American defender Eric Lichaj personally was busy, if not particularly successful over the Boxing Day "weekend," twice playing 90 minutes for Aston Villa, though in a pair of losses.
In the eighth minute of yesterday's 4-0 setback at Manchester City, Lichaj blatantly pulled down Manchester forward Mario Balotelli in the Villa penalty area and could have easily been sent off by referee Michael Oliver. No card was issued, but a penalty kick was awarded. Balotelli converted for the first of his three goals (two PKs), his first career hat trick.
Lichaj picked up a yellow card in the 70th minute.
On Sunday, Villa fell to Tottenham 2-1 on Boxing Day and Lichaj had a strong match, defending against Spurs midfielder Gareth Bale. He even had a chance tie the match late when he got his head on a cross, only to see his shot hit the side-netting.
American Brad Friedel was in goal for Villa in both matches. He was let down by a generally lax defense in Tuesday's loss at City of Manchester Stadium. He was sharp in Sunday's home loss to Tottenham but, while the defense played well in front of him, Villa had problems on the attacking end.
American Brad Guzan was Friedel's backup backup in both matches.
U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden went the distance on Sunday for Bolton Wanderers in their 2-0 triumph over West Bromwich Albion. Today, Holden went 82 minutes as Bolton played hard but fell short 1-0 to Chelsea.
U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann was again on the bench for a pair of Wolverhampton Wanderers' matches. On Sunday, it was another loss, 2-1 to Wigan Athletic. Today, Wolves stunned many observers by defeating Liverpool 1-0 with Wayne Hennessey earning his second clean sheet since taking over for Hahnemann five weeks ago.
All but one lower division matches in England that might have featured Americans were postponed. In the third-tier League One yesterday, striker Jemal Johnson was on the bench for Milton Keynes Dons in a 2-0 home decision over Bournemouth.
In Scotland, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu continues to be held out with a sore knee and wasd unavailable for Glasgow Rangers, 4-1 winners over Motherwell on Sunday. Rangers' Wednesday match with St. Johnstone was postponed.
In Belgium on Sunday, U.S. midfielder Sacha Kljestan started and played 78 minutes for RSC Anderlecht, in its 6-0 rout over Lierse SK.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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