American Exports: Tim Howard, Everton grab hold of final Europa League spot with home victory
AMSTERDAM – Brad Guzan and Aston Villa started their first win streak of the Premier League season on Saturday by knocking off visiting league leaders Chelsea, 1-0.
The former Chivas USA man snapped his three-game losing slide against the Blues, making two saves and nabbing a pair of dangerous crosses. Second bookings to Willian and Ramires saw them each sent off over the final 22 minutes, with Fabian Delph's winner arriving in between to put Villa in 10th place.
Around the Premier League, Tim Howard and Everton tentatively grabbed hold of the England's last Europa League spot, running his Goodison Park win streak to five games with a 2-1 decision over Cardiff City.
The US netminder needed just two saves, both expertly used to deny Frazier Campbell. Thanks to Seamus Coleman's stoppage-time strike, Howard & Co. moved three points ahead of Sunday combatants Manchester United in sixth place.
Around the Premier League, Geoff Cameron enjoyed a strong defensive outing as Stoke City continued their climb with a 3-1 home victory over West Ham United.
The Potters right back, who finished the game sporting a bandage from a second half clash of heads, rang up seven tackles on the day. Cameron also nodded a corner kick chance wide moments before West Ham's 15th-minute opener. Now 3-1-3 in their last seven, Stoke reached the top half of the table.
Halftime sub Jozy Altidore was robbed on Sunderland's best chance in a disappointing 0-0 draw with relegation derby guests Crystal Palace.
Six minutes out of intermission, the No. 17 shirt shook free in the area to fire a lefty dart at the target, only to have Palace netminder Julian Speroni make a fine reaction save. Fabio Borini later pinged the woodwork in another harsh denial, leaving the Black Cats winless in three. While Sunderland missed a golden chance to move out of the bottom three, the point gained lifted them to 18th place.
Over in the Championship, three Americans went wire-to-wire as Oguchi Onyewu and Sheffield Wednesday sailed past guests Birmingham City 4-1.
The World Cup hopeful stood tall in central defense, winning seven clearances and three fouls. The Owls, who have leaked just six goals in Onyewu's eight starts, moved 13 points away from the relegation fight.
The day did not end so well for Will Packwood and Jonathan Spector, who made up Birmingham's right side of defense.
Despite logging a game-high 15 clearances and one saving tackle, Packwood was charged with an unlucky own goal when a cross deflected off the back of his leg and over Irish-American Brums goalkeeper Darren Randolph in the 58th minute. Meanwhile, Spector worked a hot-and-cold shift that featured a game-best six tackles. The loss extended the 19th-place visitors' win drought to four matches.
Bolton wasted a strong showing by center back Tim Ream in a 2-0 home loss to Brighton & Hove Albion.
The US international put in a good all-around performance without committing a single foul or turnover. By losing for the first time in six, Wanderers slipped to 17th place.
Yeovil Town loan attacker Duane Holmes was removed in a tactical switch near the half hour of a 3-0 loss at Queens Park Rangers. The 23rd-place visitors missed the opportunity to escape the danger zone.
Zak Whitbread was an unused sub in Derby County's 0-0 draw at Reading.
Over in the Bundesliga, Fabian Johnson notched an assist to help put Hoffenheim up two, but they eventually collapsed in a 4-2 home defeat to Mainz 05.
The right back got forward to play the killer pass and Roberto Firmino obliged with a fine finish to give the hosts what seemed to be breathing room in the 52nd minute. However, after Johnson was beaten at the back post by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting midway through the period, Mainz added two more goals in the next eight minutes to grab the points. Despite consecutive losses, Hoffenheim held firm in 10th place.
Also, John Anthony Brooks watched from the home dugout as Hertha Berlin fell 3-0 at home to Hannover 96. The result kept The Old Lady four points shy of the last Europa League invite.
In France's Ligue 1, Alejandro Bedoya went unused as Nantes held third place hosts Lille to a 0-0 stalemate. Though goalless on the road since the American's Dec. 6 winner at Marseille, a span of 614 minutes, the Canaries inched to eight points clear of the drop zone.
Turning to Austria's top flight, a wasteful evening in front of goal from Terrence Boyd did not stop Rapid Vienna from winning for the first time in five, 1-0 over visiting SV Ried.
The Green-Whites top scorer – who bagged five goals in a midweek friendly rout – missed the frame with a pair of good chances in each half. Nevertheless, Rapid pulled level on points with the final Europa League slot.
Finally, in Turkey's Süper Lig, Jermaine Jones remained a bench spectator as Besiktas settled for a 2-2 draw at Rizespor. The Black Eagles stayed two points off the pace for the league's only Champions League group-phase ticket.