Leading a bang-up mid-week slate for Americans in England was Landon Donovan, who produced his best game to date in an Everton shirt, helping the Toffees to a huge three points against league-leaders Chelsea.
You might have assumed Everton would struggle in this one since they were missing midfield catalysts Marouane Fallaini (injury) and Steven Pienaar (two yellows in last game) but you’d have been wrong. Donovan played in his usual (for Everton) spot on the right wing, and was excellent on both sides of the ball, creating several chances and winning his part of the midfield battle. His corner kick led to Everton’s equalizer in the 33rd minute, as Louis Saha snapped it home on a near-post run. Donovan drew a penalty in the 45th minute, cutting sharply inside on Ricardo Carvalho and getting clipped. Saha missed the penalty, but he would redeem himself (and earn Man of the Match honors) by hitting a gorgeous winner in the 74th minute.
The win leaves Everton in ninth place with 35 points, two behind eighth-place Birmingham and seven behind Aston Villa in the final Europa League spot.
Chelsea missed a chance to go four points up on Manchester United, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Villa and American Brad Friedel, who produced another spectacular performance in goal. The Villans had a man advantage for much of the game after a first-half red to United winger Nani, but the run of play suggested the opposite, as Man U took it to Villa. Friedel made great saves agains Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney.
Seriously, can we persuade Friedel to return to international duty? We’re not saying as a starter, necessarily, but wouldn’t it be reassuring to know he was on the bench and available if need be, and wouldn’t his experience and locker-room presence benefit the entire team? Somebody get a website going on this—BradComeBack.com should be available as a domain name. Lets’ make it happen.
In the other midweek games, Fulham and injured U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey picked up a most welcome three points on Tuesday, blanking Burnley 3-0 and holding on to tenth place in the table. Bolton fell to Manchester City 2-0, and Stuart Holden was not, in the end, named to the match-day squad. The American winger did see 60 minutes of action in a reserve game on Wednesday, though, and could play with the first team in the F.A. Cup on Sunday.
All of the relegation-battling teams with Americans on their rosters are out of the drop zone—for now—as West Ham and U.S. defender Jonathan Spector upended Birmingham City 2-0, and Wolves and Yank keeper Marcus Hahnemann stunned Spurs 1-0. American striker Jozy Altidore and Hull lost to Blackburn 1-0, but their 24 points have them tied with Wigan, Wolves and West Ham in 17th place, one point above the trap-door to Championship-land, which, as desirable as it may sound, is not a place any Premier League team wants to visit.
Altidore and Hahnemann started and went the distance in their games, while Spector came on as a halftime sub, at left back, in the Hammers’ big win.
Full Everton-Chelsea highlights below: