American Exports: Brad Guzan stars for Aston Villa as EPL kicks off on busy Saturday
AMSTERDAM – It was a busy Saturday for Americans playing in Europe, highlighted by Brad Guzan backstopping a 3-1 opening day win away to 10-man Arsenal.
The former Chivas USA man needed only three saves, with his best bit of larceny coming on a 78th-minute denial of Santi Cazorla that protected what was a one-goal lead at the time. Guzan became the first American netminder to win at Arsenal since Brad Friedel did so for Tottenham in October 2011.
Around the EPL, Jozy Altidore worked a solid full shift in his Sunderland debut, a 1-0 home loss to Fulham. The US striker provided the Black Cats with strong hold-up play all game long, but only managed to put one of his four shot attempts on target. Shortly after flashing a shot just wide on the turn, Altidore was robbed from close range by Fulham keeper Maarten Stekelenburg in the 73rd minute.
Geoff Cameron pitched in with a professional right back outing in Stoke City's tight 1-0 defeat at Liverpool. The Potters have now lost seven straight against last season's top seven table finishers, with four of the last five losses in the stretch by a single goal.
Everton netminder Tim Howard was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw at Norwich City. The Toffees custodian, who did not notch a single save, was left helpless by a Ricky van Wolfswinkel's terrific equalizing header 19 minutes from time.
Down one flight in the Championship, Eric Lichaj set up the second as new leaders Nottingham Forest remained the lone perfect team through three rounds of play with a 3-0 blanking of guests Bolton. After having his cross deposited by Andy Reid in the 49th minute, the right back would eventually just miss wide when trying to make it four for Forest with a lefty curler in the late going. Tim Ream, meanwhile, went unused by Wanderers, who remained winless on the young season.
Reading midfielder Daniel Williams came on for the final 21 minutes, during which visiting Watford rallied from two down for a 3-3 share. Just seconds after entering, the US international grabbed a "second assist" after his cross was knocked down for Jem Karacan to bag the Royals' third goal. At the break-even point through three rounds, Reading hold down eighth place.
Elsewhere, Zak Whitbread was an unused bench player in Leicester City's 1-0 win at Derby County. The Foxes are in a crowd of five clubs standing two points shy of Forest.
Across the North Sea, Aron Jóhannsson pulled into a four-way tie atop the Eredivisie goal chart with the early opener in a 2-1 victory at RKC Waalwijk. The recent US debutant scooped up a loose ball to break the ice in just the fourth minute, ringing up his third of the season and fourth in four games across all competition. The win tentatively lifted AZ into fifth place.
Next door in the Bundesliga, Fabian Johnson picked up an assist as Hoffenheim strolled to a surprise 5-1 win at Hamburg. Having missed their season starter last week, the left back crossed for Roberto Firmino to net the opener after just five minutes. Hoffenheim, who have now won four straight on the road in league play, tentatively sit fifth in the table.
Jermaine Jones and Schalke suffered disappointment for the second consecutive weekend, falling 4-0 at Wolfsburg. Still winless on the season, the Miners will stand no better than 13th after Sunday's league matches.
In Norway's Tippeligaen, Mikkel Dikerud departed with an apparent hamstring knock as tabletop Rosenborg battled to a 0-0 stalemate against guests Vålerenga. The Troll Kids extended their league unbeaten streak to 14 games to move three points up on Strømsgodset, who can go top with a Monday win due to their favorable goal differential.
Finally, in Denmark, Conor O'Brien worked solidly in midfield as FC Nordsjælland posted their first win in five games this season, 2-1 over Aalborg BK.