American Exports: Sacha Kljestan, Anderlecht stumble in Champions League opener

AMSTERDAM – Several Americans faced tough challenges overseas on Tuesday, with Sacha Kljestan putting in a decent performance as Anderlecht fell 2-0 in their UEFA Champions League group-phase opener at Benfica.

The US midfielder (above, left) struggled some along with his teammates during a trying first half-hour that saw them concede twice, but rallied to help change the tide after intermission. The Belgian champs eventually carved out a handful of chances to get back in the contest, but had two goals waved off by transgressions and could not get on the scoreboard.

Kljestan, who led all players with four free kicks won, also saw a late yellow card. Next up for the Mauves in Champions League is a home date on Oct. 2 against Greek powers Olympiacos.

Over in England's Championship, it was a tale of second-half redemption for Eric Lichaj and Nottingham Forest in a 2-2 comeback draw against visiting Middlesbrough.

Lichaj was beaten on Kei Kamara's opening strike, with the former Sporting KC ace arriving first to a cross to open his Boro account near the quarter-hour. The Forest right back made amends with 11 minutes remaining, racing to the endline to serve the perfect low feed for Darius Henderson to level matters. The American also drew a late yellow card as the fifth-place hosts stayed unbeaten at City Ground on the season.

Elsewhere, Bolton defensive midfielder Tim Ream also assisted on a 2-2 equalizer against guests Derby County. With his team having blown an early lead to fall behind, the converted defender cleverly teed up Chris Eagles to square the game again moments before halftime. 

The result snapped a four-game losing streak for Wanderers, but they remain winless at the bottom of the table through seven rounds.

Finally, it was an unpleasant night for Jonathan Spector and Birmingham City, who suffered a 3-0 blanking at Burnley. With four losses in their last five league games, the Brums now hang over the relegation zone by a single goal in differential.