American Exports: Brad Guzan backstops Aston Villa's continued resurgence
AMSTERDAM – Brad Guzan continued leading Aston Villa toward survival on Saturday, logging five saves in a leave-it-late 3-2 victory over visiting Queens Park Rangers.
The former Chivas USA backstop was at his best to deny Christopher Samba twice inside the opening 20 minutes. After a deflected shot beat Guzan to tie the game in the 73rd minute, Christian Benteke netted nine minutes from time to earn Villa their first EPL win streak since May 2011 and a six-point cushion above the drop zone.
Elsewhere, Geoff Cameron enjoyed a decent outing at left back in Stoke City's 0-0 home draw against West Bromwich Albion. The result snapped a three-game losing skid, keeping the club in 10th place.
One league below in the Championship, Birmingham City midfielder Jonathan Spector suffered an ankle injury mere moments into their 1-0 win at Middlesbrough. Taken down by a rough Faris Haroun tackle, the US international will likely be unavailable to boss Jurgen Klinsmann despite flying over to America after the game. The 11th-place Brums, meanwhile, have now lost just once in their last seven away games.
Stuart Holden watched on as Bolton surrendered their five-game winning run with a 1-0 defeat at Ipswich Town. Despite the loss, Wanderers held firm in eighth place, five points shy of the last promotion playoff place.
The spot is currently held by Leicester City, who kept Zak Whitbread in the dugout for a 2-1 loss at Derby County. Conor Doyle also went unused by the 12th-place victors, who ended an eight-match win drought.
Turning to the Bundesliga, Timothy Chandler and warming FC Nürnberg announced their Europa League candidacy with a 3-0 rout of Jermaine Jones' visiting Schalke. Chandler created a couple of good scoring chances from right wing in his 84 minutes of work. Jones went all 90 for the Miners, losing the set-up man on the home side's second goal.
Der Club, who posted consecutive wins for the first time this season, ran their unbeaten streak to seven in closing to within four points of a place in Europe. The loss dipped Schalke one rung to fifth and out of Germany's last Champions League slot on goal differential.
Daniel Williams went the distance as Hoffenheim settled for a 0-0 share with guests Mainz 05. The draw left the hosts four points out of the survival playoff spot and nine shy of the safety zone.
Next door in Belgium's Jupiler League, Sacha Kljestan saw yellow in a full shift as Anderlecht closed the regular season with a 1-1 draw at Gent. The defending champs had their tabletop lead sliced to four points – which will be halved to two when the country's unique championship hexagonal starts after the international break.
In Austria's honor division, Terrence Boyd went into the book during Rapid Vienna's disappointing 1-1 home draw with lowly Admira Wacker. Now winless in seven for the first time since 2006, the Green-Whites fell to fourth place.
Over in Israel, Bryan Gerzicich and Hapoel Ironi Kiryat Shmona saw their already slim title repeat hopes bashed against the rocks by a 1-0 home defeat to Hapoel Tel Aviv. The champs slipped to 19 points off the top with nine championship playoff matches left.
Meanwhile, in Denmark, Conor O'Brien and FC Nordsjælland saw their Superliga match at Aalborg BK suspended by snow after 18 minutes.