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U.S. men's schedule, results

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Marcus Hahnemann Q&A

O'Brien returns to Ajax, playing for reserves in Amstel Cup.

Gregg Berhalter Q&A.

Howard works hard for Man. U. in defeat of Manchester City.

Lewis cracks starting lineup, sparks Preston North End twice.

Casey, Berhalter score as their teams draw in Germany.

Keller is key in Tottenham Carling Cup win, is named Spurs' best player.

Howard, Man. U. get the best of Friedel, Rovers before record crowd at Old Trafford.

Hahnemann's shutout leads Reading to 1-0 victory over Millwall.

Friedel, Rovers get back on winning track, 2-1 over Everton.

With Thomas' decisive goal, Eintracht Braunschweig stuns Hannover 96 2-0 in German Cup.

Keller's 12 saves can't stop Spurs' 1-0 loss to Bolton.

Cherundolo avoids bench and helps Hannover draw 1-1 with 1860 München.

Spurs ride Keller hot streak to middle of Premier League table.

Howard, Manchester United hold off Rangers 1-0 in Champions League.

Reyna has goal, assist as Man. City drubs Bolton 6-2.

Keller's threee straight shutouts are key to Hotspur revival.

Keller faces 24 shots, leads Spurs 0-0 draw with Reyna's City.

Reyna keeps it brief in Manchester City debut.

Fulham manager Coleman is irate over loss of Reyna to Manchester City.

One error ruins Howard's great effort, Man. U.'s perfect mark.

In surprise, Sunderland transfers Reyna to Manchester City.

Americans Abroad

Kirovski, Birmingham win duel with Reyna, Manchester City 2-1.

By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
SoccerTimes

Jovan Kirovski
Jovan Kirovski mad a late relief appearance for Birmingham City in a 2-1 decision over Manchester City.
-- Birmingham City web site photo --
(Sunday, December 28, 2003) -- The Christmas holiday is among the busiest times of year for England's soccer teams and players. The leagues play full schedules on the traditional day-after-Christmas "Boxing Day" holiday and then an additional full weekend schedule. This year, that meant most teams played matches both Friday and today.

The Premier League is on break until January 7, the First Division until January 10.

Given the way things have gone so far this season, it was unusual to see Americans Claudio Reyna and Jovan Kirovski facing off against one another in the midfield, but that's what happened for the final half hour of Birmingham City's 2-1 home win over Manchester City on Boxing Day in the Premier League.

Reyna, who has battled injuries this season, made the start and went the distance for Manchester City which appeared for most of the afternoon in position to win. Kirovski, who has been used sparingly, replaced David Dunn for Birmingham in the 61st minute with Manchester holding a 1-0 lead on Robbie Fowler's goal in the 14th minute.

Kirovski added some energy to the lagging Birmingham midfield, but it was two very odd goals, in the 81st and 87th minutes, that turned the match. The first was a rebound off the post from a free kick that Jeff Kenna put away to tie the game at 1-1. Then, Mikael Forssell was credited with the winning goal when a defensive clearance bounced off him and into the net.

Kirovski again saw some action today when he came on in the 78th minute of Birmingham's 1-0 loss to Everton. Young Everton star Wayne Rooney recorded the only goal in the 68th minute. Inserted in an effort to add some offense, Kirovski managed one good shot.

Also today, Reyna went the distance for Manchester City which used a goal in stoppage time to draw 2-2 with Liverpool. Reyna generally played well in a match dominated by City, but made an error in the 80th minute that cost a goal. He tried to head a cross clear, but instead put it in the path of Liverpool's Dietmar Hamann who smashed it home for a 2-1 Liverpool lead. Fowler tied the game for Manchester in the last minute.

Manchester United recorded a pair of triumphs with American Tim Howard in goal. On Boxing Day, Howard let in two or more goals for only the second time this season, but United won 3-2 over Everton in a match not as close as the score would indicate. Manager Alex Ferguson decided to rest some starters, so he left Ruud van Nistelrooy, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs on the bench while Roy Keane and Phil Neville watched from the stands.

Gary Neville put an own goal past Howard in the 13th minute to even the score at 1-1. In stoppage time, a defensive miscue allowed Duncan Ferguson free in the box and he scored to pull Everton to within 3-2.

Sunday, it was back to the full first team and Howard registered United's ninth EPL shutout of the season 1-0 over Middlesbrough. Things got interesting when United's Darren Fletcher was sent off in the 64th minute, but Boro was not able to break through and was blanked at home for the fifth straight outing. Howard nearly allowed the equalizer when he failed to control a long Danny Mills throw-in, but Gaizka Mendieta was only able to steer the loose ball into the side netting.

Man. U. leads the league at 15-3-1 with 46 points, followed by Arsenal (13-0-6, 45 points) and Chelsea (13-3-3, 42) at the season's midpoint.

U.S. goalkeeper Brad Friedel turned in a pair of solid efforts for Blackburn Rovers who came away with a victory and a draw over the weekend. On Boxing Day, Markus Babbel's stoppage-time goal, his second tally of the day, lifted Rovers to a 2-2 draw with Middlesbrough.

Friedel was twice beaten by Osvaldo Juninho Paulista. Both goals were similar with good passing combinations freeing Juninho who both times got the ball past Friedel. The American keeper kept Rovers in the match with several good saves, especially one on Michael Ricketts whose powerful header off a cross seemed headed for net.

Sunday, Friedel made a series of exceptional saves keeping Rovers in the match against Newcastle United until a 72nd minute goal by 19-year-old Paul Gallagher gave Blackburn a 1-0 triumph.

In the seventh minute, Friedel dove full length to his left to palm away a shot from Jermaine Jenas. Then, in the 21st, he went down to smother a good downward header from Alan Shearer. Late in the first half, he stopped Laurent Robert point-blank.

Friedel picked up where he left off in the second half when he got to a rocket 30-yard free kick from Robert, denied Nolberto Solano's dangerous chance in the 65th minute and stopped Michael Chopra who came in alone on him.

It was a less successful weekend for U.S. keeper Kasey Keller and Tottenham Hotspur which dropped a pair, saw its losing streak stretch to four and is facing the very real proposition of demotion to the First Division.

On Boxing Day, Spurs fell to Portsmouth 2-0. Patrik Berger scored twice off perfectly placed free kicks, one a thundering shot from 35 yards out, the second from about 20 yards.

Keller made four or five outstanding saves on the day, the best on shots from Alexei Smertin, Teddy Sheringham and Yakubu Ayegbini, but Spurs generated little attack.

It was much the same story Sunday. Keller helped keep the match close, but once again Spurs managed little offense and fell to Charlton 1-0. In the 23rd minute, Keller made a pair of superb saves on Finland international Jonatan Johansson. The match stayed even until the 69th minute when Carlton Cole met Paolo di Canio's corner and sent a bullet header away from Keller. Defender Stephen Kelly tried to head the ball away, but instead sent it off the bottom of the crossbar and into his own net.

Keller then made a save on Scott Parker and a pair on Cole, but Spurs were shut out for the fourth time in their last six league outings.

Tottenham is 5-11-3 with 18 points, sitting in 18th place, the top spot of the relegation zone. Leicester City also has 18 points at 4-9-6, but is seven better in goal differential.

While Blackburn (6-10-3, 21 points) is in a tie with Manchester City (5-8-6) for 13th place, the two clubs with prominent Americans are only three points above the relegation zone. On the positive side, with half the season remaining, the two clubs are only five points below sixth place with only 12 points separating Liverpool (7-6-5), Southhampton (7-7-5) and Newcastle (6-5-8), tied for sixth with 26 points, and Wolverhampton (3-10-5), 20th and last with 14 points.

In England's First Division, Reading endured its third straight 3-0 loss on Boxing Day, going down to Wimbledon at home. American keeper Marcus Hahnemann did what he could, but was beaten on two very nice finishes and on a rebound.

Things got a bit better for Reading Sunday when a good Hahnemann performance allowed it to earn a point in a 1-1 road draw with Walsall. Hahnemann made several good saves, his best against Scott Murray, to keep the match close, allowing Reading to draw on a 72nd minute goal by Nicholas Shorey.

U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis played well for Preston North End in a pair of draws but, although he came very close to scoring several times, he couldn't find net.

On Boxing Day, PNE drew 1-1 with Stoke. Twice Lewis let loose with blistering free kicks, but Stoke's Dutch keeper Ed de Goey managed to get fingers on both and keep them out. Today, in a 0-0 tie with Crewe, Lewis again came close when he drilled a free kick at goal, blasted a shot that brought a stunning stop from keeper Clayton Ince and nailed a header on goal that Ince directed over the crossbar.

Robert Wagman is a SoccerTimes senior correspondent and can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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