American Exports: Altidore continues magical season
AMSTERDAM — It was an eventful Sunday for Americans across the pond, headlined by Jozy Altidore's 65th-minute winner for AZ Alkmaar in a 2-1 home win over VVV Venlo.
The US striker was frustrated by the right post twice in the opening frame, once on a diagonal bouncer and then off a back post header. Altidore finally beat the woodwork after VVV had leveled, snapping the deadlock for good with a clinical header inside the right stick at the other end.
By burying Maarten Martens' floaty serve, the American raised his career highs to 15 Eredivisie goals and 19 across the board this term. The Cheese Farmers stayed six points adrift of league leaders Ajax, but held onto the second Champions League slot on plus-one goal differential thanks to Altidore's strike.
Over the water in England, Everton netminder Tim Howard gained his first-ever Old Trafford point as an EPL visitor after a 4-4 barn-burner with league leaders Manchester United. Having blown the initial lead, the Toffees stormed back for a share over the last seven minutes through goals from Nikica Jelavić and Steven Pienaar.
Howard saved the best of his four stops for last, cruelly pushing over old teammate Rio Ferdinand's stoppage time crack at a winner. By putting United's repeat hopes in danger, Everton extended their league unbeaten run to five matches.
In Portugal's Liga ZON Sagres, Oguchi Onyewu returned to the lineup with a solid showing as 10-man Sporting CP scored a 3-2 victory at Nacional. Featuring for the first time since injuring a knee in mid-February, Gooch helped the Lions win for the fourth straight time, clinching their return to the Europa League in the process.
One league below, Tony Taylor struck for table-toppers Estoril eventually fell 2-1 at lead chasers Moreirense. The US youth forward curled home a left-footed beauty from the top of the area eight minutes before intermission to score for the second consecutive game.
In Bundesliga action, Hannover 96 skipper Steve Cherundolo had a couple struggles at right back in a 0-0 draw with visiting Freiburg. The point nudged the Reds' advantage for the last Europa League invite to three points with two matches left.
Jermaine Jones saw a typical yellow card near the end of a 1-1 share with home side Augsburg. The US midfielder went into the book for the fifth straight game and 13th time in 15 as the Miners inched their third place lead to two points.
Heading to Belgium, Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht sounded an overt title warning with a 1-0 victory at second-place Club Brugge. The former Chivas USA ace was booked late in a strong showing for what appeared to be no more than an excellent tackle. The win lifted the Mauves four points clear at the top with five to play.
To the north in Denmark, Conor O'Brien went the distance as in-form SønderjyskE climbed into the better half of the table with a 2-1 defeat of relegation bait HB Køge.
Brad Rusin managed a pair of shots on goal in 32 sub minutes as target man for the beaten visitors, who remain winless in five and seven points from a playoff chance at survival. The home side, meanwhile, have five wins and a draw in their last six Superliga contests.
Clarence Goodson and Brøndby suffered a galling 2-0 home loss to FC Midtjylland. The Lads From the Western Outskirts leaked twice in the final half hour to bust a six-game unbeaten run in the friendly confines.
In nearby Norway, Steve Clark backstopped Hønefoss to a 3-1 triumph over Aalesunds FK. The American's best save of the day protected a one-goal lead from AaFK's Jamaica international Demar Phillips. One of three remaining Tippeligaen unbeatens, Hønefoss jumped up to fifth place.
Sean Cunningham worked a sturdy outing in central defense and Ricardo Clark was shown yellow in a slightly less effective shift as early bottom feeders Stabæk dropped a 2-1 decision at Sandnes.