American Exports: Spector, Whitbread in form in wins
AMSTERDAM — A pair of Americans starred in defense on Saturday as their teams advanced to the FA Cup's sweet 16, with Jonathan Spector on top right back form in Birmingham City's 4-0 waltz through Sheffield United.
After opening through Nathan Redmond in the 18th minute, the visitors proceeded to add on another every 20 minutes like clockwork. Winning for the fifth straight match, the Brums extended both their FA Cup mastery of the Blades and their shutout streak to 432 minutes.
Also, Zak Whitbread (above) worked a tidy shift as Norwich City moved on to the round of 16 for the first time since 2007 with a 2-1 road win over West Bromwich Albion. Thanks to Canada forward Simeon Jackson's strike with five minutes to play, the Canaries ran their away win streak to three and are now unbeaten in six overall.
Meanwhile, Conor Doyle went unused as Derby County bowed out at home with a 2-0 loss to Stoke City.
Next door in Scotland, Maurice Edu pitched in 74 influential minutes and Carlos Bocanegra held down the fort for all 90 as Rangers tentatively climbed to within a point of SPL leaders Celtic on the strength of a 4-0 rout of Hibernian.
Shortly after Edu earned an "NHL assist" on the home side's 26th-minute icebreaker, the US midfielder nearly doubled their edge with a distance try that shaved the frame. The No. 7 shirt later won the foul for Sone Aluko's third from a free kick — as well as a second yellow to Hibs defender James McPake — and then departed the game a moment later.
In Bundesliga action, Fabian Johnson bagged the consolation goal as Hoffenheim dropped a 3-1 decision at holders Borussia Dortmund. The US winger lashed home a dummied centering feed from the slot just past the hour mark and came off with 13 minutes remaining.
Club and country mate Daniel Williams, who went the distance as central defense cover for the second straight game, was culpable for losing scorer Kevin Grosskreutz on Dortmund's 31st-minute winner. Young attacker Joseph Gyau was again an unused substitute for Hoffenheim.
Bayer Leverkusen backup netminder David Yelldell watched on as the visitors battled Werder Bremen to a 1-1 draw, while Hertha Berlin defensive handyman Alfredo Morales was in unused sub in a 2-1 home defeat to Hamburg.
Over the border in Eredivisie play, Jozy Altidore entered at halftime as a lethargic AZ Alkmaar failed to reclaim the summit in a 2-0 loss at Roda JC.
The US striker squandered a pair of golden chances to get the visitors back in the game over the final half-hour. On cruise control much of the season to date, the Kaasboeren suddenly have but one win in six league games.
Finally, in Belgium, Sacha Kljestan worked 75 minutes as Anderlecht failed to crack the home code in a 0-0 stalemate at Beerschot AC. The result saw the Mauves' tabletop cushion trimmed to seven points.