American Exports: Aron Johannsson scores another beauty for AZ Alkmaar, Brad Guzan takes big scalp
AMSTERDAM – Aron Jóhannsson continued his deadly form on Saturday, striking a picturesque winner as AZ Alkmaar topped visiting Eredivisie leaders PSV Eindhoven 2-1.
The No. 20 shirt whistled a long-distance drive just wide in the opening frame, but he was on target with a wicked half-volley from above the area in the 57th minutes. The dipping decider was Jóhannsson's second goal in as many games against the Farmers and fifth in eight games this season.
The result not only conditionally lifted AZ six rungs to third place, it also left PSV vulnerable at the top to Sunday combatants FC Twente.
Across the North Sea in England's Premier League, Aston Villa netminder Brad Guzan added a new feat to his résumé, notching the assist on the home side's 3-2 rally winner against Manchester City.
The former Chivas USA man rang up five saves to snap a three-game Villa Park losing skid, which looked as though it could be extended for much of the second half.
Guzan let a Yaya Touré shot slip through him for the opener just before the break and Edin Dzeko later restored City's lead moments after Villa tied the game. However, the US international's excellent stop of an Álvaro Negredo rocket volley near the hour kept his team in the game.
Shortly after Leandro Bacuna re-leveled matters with a sterling free kick in the 73rd minute, a long Guzan boot and confusion between the away center backs conspired to allow Andres Wiemann free for the deciding goal.
In the end, Villa used Guzan's first career victory over the Citizens to tentatively reach the better half of the table through six games.
Elsewhere, Brad Friedel watched on as Tottenham nudged their way into the EPL penthouse with a 1-1 draw against derby guests Chelsea.
One league below in the Championship, Eric Lichaj held down right back as Nottingham Forest climbed to fifth place with a 1-0 win over visiting Derby County.
The Chicago native narrowly missed opening the scoring when his self-made shot on goal was deflected over, but fellow defender Jack Hobbs grabbed the only tally Forest would need from the resulting corner kick. The Tricky Trees pushed their home unbeaten run across all competition to seven games with the victory.
Around the league, Tim Ream made an encouraging left-back debut for Bolton in a 1-1 fightback draw against visiting Yeovil Town.
Jonathan Spector went the distance at right back in Birmingham City's 2-0 defeat at Reading. The Brums slipped a spot to 19th thanks to their third loss in four. Though still winless through nine, Wanderers moved out of the league basement.
Over in the Bundesliga, it was spoils shared between US teammates as Fabian Johnson's Hoffenheim hosted a wild 3-3 draw with Jermaine Jones and Schalke.
The impactful Jones, who was removed a few minutes from the final whistle, shipped the pass that started Schalke's move for the opening goal. The day did not go quite so well for Johnson, whose middling shift ended with a 70th-minute knock shortly after Hoffenheim hit the equalizer.
Next door in Austria, Terrence Boyd and Rapid Vienna suffered an embarrassing 4-2 home collapse against lowly RZ Pellets WAZ.
The US forward should have earned an assist with his side up two near the half hour, only to watch Green-Whites Steffen Hofmann blow the chance. The defeat cost fourth-place Rapid the chance to move to within a point of the top.
Finally, in Norway's Tippeligaen, Steve Clark and Hønefoss inched closer to the safety zone with a last-gasp 2-2 home draw with Viking.
The Michigan native registered four saves on the day, with his best robbery coming on an André Danielsen effort near the half-hour. Clark later was booked for unsportsmanlike behavior in the aftermath of the penalty foul that allowed Viking to build a two-goal edge on 59 minutes.
With but one loss in five, Hønefoss tentatively stands two points short of exiting the drop zone with five games left in the season.