AMSTERDAM – Tim Howard returned from injury with a vengeance on Saturday, logging three fine saves and a rare assist as Everton posted a 1-0 victory over visiting Stoke City.
The US netminder notched his first helper since 2007 in the 28th minute, punching a free kick clear to Kevin Miralles, who then beat last Potters man back Geoff Cameron on his way scoring the game's lone goal. Howard then denied Jonathan Walters near the break for his top save on the way to ending a four-game winless streak against Stoke.
The sixth-place Toffees have won three straight EPL matches to move to within four points of the EPL's last Champions League spot.
Elsewhere, Tottenham goalkeeper Brad Friedel won his first league start since October with a 2-1 decision at Swansea City.
The veteran made two stops, including a top-shelf job on Michu's free kick shortly after the break. Spurs snapped a two-game slide to regain third place.
One flight down in the Championship, Stuart Holden worked 61 solid minutes in his Sheffield Wednesday loan debut, a 2-1 home win against Barnsley. The Owls recorded their first home victory in four to remain a point above the danger zone.
Over in Portugal, Tony Taylor hopped off the bench to play hero for 10-man Estoril by hitting a 1-1 equalizer at Moreirense with the last touch of the game.
Having entered with 18 minutes left, Taylor popped up at the back post to bag his first Liga ZON Sagres goal seven minutes into stoppage time. The point gained kept Estoril, last season's second-flight champs, within a point of the first European berth in club history.
Bundesliga action saw Fabian Johnson back on right wing for Hoffenheim, who dropped a 3-0 result at Schalke.
The US international went 74 minutes, while club and country mate Daniel Williams put in 83. Hoffenheim lost for the sixth time in seven road contests, missing a chance to close ground in the survival race.
Steve Cherundolo returned from injury, but went unused in Hannover 96's 2-0 triumph at Augsburg. The Reds halted a three-game win drought to creep to within two points of a Europa League invite.
One league below, John Anthony Brooks pitched in a full shift and Alfredo Morales offered 15 relief minutes in midfield minutes in a 2-0 victory over visiting VfL Bochum. Thanks to their third straight win, the 2.Bundesliga leaders held their one-point tabletop advantage.
In Serie A, Michael Bradley watched on as AS Roma fell 2-0 at basement side Palermo. Despite losing for the first time in six, the visitors held firm in seventh place.
Nearby in Spain's La Liga, Oguchi Onyewu was an unused sub in Málaga's 3-1 victory at Rayo Vallecano. The Anchovies, who are appealing their Europe ban for next season, moved back into the last Champions League slot with their first league win in six.
Finally, Terrence Boyd and Rapid Vienna missed a chance to regain third place in a 3-2 defeat at SV Ried. The US forward saw his only chance of the game blocked by a defender with 10 minutes left as the Green-Whites' winless run reached eight games.