American Exports: Tim Howard, red-hot Everton top Fulham, closing on Arsenal's Champions League spot
AMSTERDAM – Tim Howard and Everton continued gaining ground in the race for England's last Champions League berth with a 3-1 victory at Fulham on Sunday afternoon.
The US star notched seven saves and captured five crosses to post his first five-game Premier League win streak in more than 10 years and Everton's first since 2002. More importantly, the Toffees pulled to within four points of fourth-place Arsenal with a game in hand and a Goodison Park clash set for next Sunday, April 6.
Howard made a pair of key saves and one important distribution pass at just the right moment to slow Fulham after Ashkan Dejagah's golazo tied the score in the 71st minute. The American swatted away good chances for Johnny Heitinga and Pajtim Kasami in quick succession, then fired a strong outlet pass for Aiden McGeady to feed fellow sub Kevin Mirallas for the 79th minute winner.
Now unbeaten in his last 10 against Fulham and in the last four at Craven Cottage, Howard also extended his home win streak to eight matches across all competitions.
Meanwhile, Brad Friedel watched from the bench as sixth-place Tottenham endangered their Champions League hopes with a 4-0 bumble at Liverpool. Spurs have dropped three of four to fall eight points away from the EPL's last invite to the big dance.
Across the North Sea in Eredivisie action, Aron Jóhannsson worked the final seven minutes to no avail as AZ Alkmaar settled for a 0-0 draw at survivalists Cambuur. The forward received only three touches, but the seventh-place Cheese Farmers did manage to snap a three-game losing slide away from home.
Closing round one of Belgium's unique championship hexagonal playoff, Sacha Kljestan was pulled after a rough first half in Anderlecht's hard-fought 1-0 defeat at first-place derby rivals Standard Liège.
After already making a couple of stressful errors in central park, the midfielder saw yellow covering another one in the 35th minute. Kljestan then had the home side hollering in unison for another booking after his rough challenge just shy of intermission.
The result dipped defending champs Anderlecht to fourth place, eight points off the top with nine games to play.
Turning to Norway's Tippeligaen, former US national team boss Bob Bradley began his time in Norway's top division with a bang, as Michael Stephens put in a full shift to help promoted hosts Stabæk jump straight into first place with a 3-0 opening-day victory over Sogndal.
The former LA Galaxy midfielder took part in the attack that saw Dartmouth alum Craig Henderson open the scoring in the 14th minutes. By the final whistle, Bradley had become the first American to both manage and helm a win in a top-flight European match.
Elsewhere in the Tippeligaen, Zarek Valentin ably went the distance at right back on his Bodø/Glimt debut, a 1-1 home draw against Aalesund FK.
The erstwhile Montreal impact defender found plenty of occasions to get forward and send dangerous crosses into the mix, including one nodded over from 12 yards by fellow MLS alum Dane Richards midway through the second half.
Despite his miss on a potential winner, it was the former New York Red Bulls winger who had canceled out an opener by Jamaica teammate Demar Phillips in the 24th minute. The strike earned promoted Bodø/Glimt an opening-day point and their first in the top division since 2009.