Danny Williams with Reading
REUTERS

American Exports: Daniel Williams shines, but Reading fall to Arsenal in FA Cup semifinal nailbiter

AMSTERDAM – Reading midfielder Daniel Williams put on a standout display against defending champs Arsenal in Saturday's FA Cup semifinal, but he and his teammates would come up just shy of the clubs' first final in a 2-1 extra time defeat. 

The Royals fought back from a halftime deficit to force overtime, only to fall on Adam Federici's goalkeeping gaffe near the end of the first added session. Williams went the distance in his first career match against Premier League opposition, excelling on the ball throughout.

Williams led Reading with an 87 percent passing rate while committing just one handling turnover, and repeatedly ate up ground on the dribble to improve the underdogs' field position. He also carved out three shooting opportunities, including a pair of good first-half looks, but was unable to put good leather on any of his stray efforts. At the defensive end, the American rang up six pass picks and two tackles.

Meanwhile, English Championship play went on as usual without Williams and the Royals, with hard-luck Derby County defender Zak Whitbread having his day cut short early by an injury in a wild 4-4 draw at Huddersfield Town.

The oft-injured center back departed with the Rams up 1-0 in the 27th minute. Before limping off, Whitbread piled up six clearances, two pass interceptions and a cross block. The result kept fifth-place Derby unbeaten in five.

Around the horn on a day of shares, Eric Lichaj worked double duty as Nottingham Forest rallied three times for a 3-3 draw at Blackburn. 

The Illinois native started at right back, but switched to the opposite side of defense midway through the second period. Lichaj would complete 23 of 27 passes on the day, but a third-minute turnover in his own end led to Rudy Gestede opening the scoring for Rovers. He would settle to notch a team-high five tackles and five clearances as the Forest win drought reached six games.

Bolton ace Tim Ream (pictured at right) ably moved into defensive midfield, helping the visitors claw back twice for a 2-2 share at Brentford that secured their league status for next season. 

Though the reigning Wanderers Player of the Year did not have his usual impact in the passing game, he did come up with four clearances and three pass picks, including a big 90th-minute interception of a dangerous centering feed. Ream also went the full route without a single foul and but one handling turnover. 

Also, Jonathan Spector went unused in Birmingham City's 1-0 defeat at Watford. The loss cost the 14th-place Brums a chance to clinch safety with five games to play.

Across the North Sea in the Eredivisie, Aron Jóhannsson earned an assist for the second straight game as AZ Alkmaar bested guests ADO Den Haag 3-1.

The US forward set up the capping goal on 65 minutes with an area square pass for Nemanja Gudelj to fire home. In all, Jóhannsson set up three shooting chances for teammates and drew a pair of saves out of the Den Haag goalkeeper himself. By snapping a two-game slide, AZ tentatively climbed to within five points of the automatic Europa League berth.

Finally, in Austria, Conor O'Brien and Wiener Neustadt slipped back into the relegation spot at the foot of the table after a 6-0 away beating administered by league leaders Red Bull Salzburg.

The midfielder easily led the visitors in passing efficiency by successfully completing 42 of 53, and also ended up with a team-high six pass interceptions. However, his turnover in the Wiener Neustadt end eventually led to the home side's 28th-minute opener. Due to their fifth consecutive loss, O'Brien and friends find themselves back in the basement on goal differential with five rounds to play.