American Exports: Aron Johannsson nets first-half brace in easy AZ Alkmaar win
AMSTERDAM – Several Americans took the field with spring breaking across the pond on Saturday afternoon, headlined by Aron Jóhannsson's first-half brace in AZ Alkmaar's 4-0 Eredivisie cruise past 10-man visitors Heracles.
The USMNT forward bagged his seventh game-opening goal of the season in style in the 16th minute. Jóhannsson leaped clear of a defender in receiving a low feed 10 yards from goal and lashed home before his feet returned to the ground.
Though he would strike the frame moments later, Jóhannsson (above) eventually doubled his haul eight minutes before intermission. The tricky forward collected a pass with back to goal, wiggling between defenders with nifty footwork before toying with the recovering Heracles 'keeper.
Jóhannsson ran his league total to 16, the third-highest Eredivisie single-season output ever by a US international. Seventh-place AZ won consecutive games for the first time in five weeks to cut their deficit on the last automatic Europa League slot to five points.
Elsewhere, Juan Agudelo came on for the final half hour in FC Utrechts 1-0 loss at PSV Eindhoven.
While the No. 18 shirt enjoyed a few bright moments in attack, he and his teammates spent much of the game chasing the ball. Despite their firs defeat in four, the visitors remained four points above the trap door.
In England's Premier league, Geoff Cameron and Stoke City rallied and then held on with 10 men for a 1-1 Premier League draw at Norwich City.
The US handyman went all 90 minutes at right back, notching three tackles on the day. His influence moving forward was limited until the Potters were killing the clock in the waning moments. Despite remaining winless in 13 away from home, Stoke tentatively climbed to 12th place.
In the FA Cup, Tim Howard watched from the dugout as Everton bowed out with a 4-1 quarterfinal loss at Arsenal.
Turning to the Championship, Tim Ream and Bolton ran their win streak to three by demolishing home side Leeds United 5-1. The left back had a solid day as Wanderers pulled 10 points clear of the drop zone in 17th place.
Around the league, Duane Holmes worked a decent 72-minute shift as Yeovil Town cooled off Oguchi Onyewu's Sheffield Wednesday in a 2-0 home win.
The lone winger nearly opened the scoring just past the half-hour mark when his deflected drive whistled by the woodwork. Onyewu put in a solid shift, though the Glovers may still feel he got away with a penalty foul on Tom Lawrence near the hour.
Yeovil moved to fine games unbeaten in drawing to within two points of safety air, while the Owls slipped a spot to 16th.
Both Will Packwood and Jonathan Spector went the distance as Birmingham City dropped a 2-0 home result against Queens Park Rangers.
With the youngster working the middle of a three-man back line and Spector on his right, the duo combined for five tackles and 17 clearances. Thanks to their fourth loss in five, the Brums slumped to 19th place.
Also, Zak Whitbread remained a spectator as third place Derby County fell 1-0 at home to survivalists Millwall.
In Bundesliga action, Fabian Johnson and Hoffenheim endured a rough 4-0 lesson at Schalke.
Though not directly involved in any of the goal leaks, Johnson had a quiet day in defense. He also served a pair crosses at the attack end that went begging for better finishes. Despite their first loss in five league games, Hoffenheim held firm in 10th place.
French Ligue 1 action saw Alejandro Bedoya enter as an injury sub on 24 minutes to help Nantes fight back at the death for a 2-2 share with guests Ajaccio.
The attacker had a decent chance to put one past Mexico backstop Guillermo Ochoa early in the second half, but fired over. Nantes snapped a three-game home losing skid to remain in 15th place.
Finally, Sacha Kljestan went unused as Belgian champs Anderlecht suffered a galling 1-0 defeat at OH Leuven to fall 12 points off the top.