(Monday, January 1, 2006) -- A pair of American goalkeepers celebrated New Year's Day by recording clean sheets in the English Premier League.
Marcus Hanhnemann had an easy time in Reading's 6-0 rout of visiting West Ham United at Madejski Stadium, while Brad Friedel was somewhat more busy, making five saves in Blackburn Rovers' 3-0 whitewash of host Wigan at The JJB Stadium
Reading showed again that while it still struggles with the best in the Premier League -- losing 3-2 at league-leading Manchester United 3-2 Saturday after going to second-place Chelsea and drawing 2-2 four days earlier -- it is better than many in the bottom half of the standings
The Royals took a 1-0 lead when midfielder Brynjar Gunnarsson scored in the 12th minute.
West Ham's American defender Jonathan Spector couldn't be blamed for the debacle. Having been benched after making several errors in Saturday's 1-0 home loss to Manchester United, he did not enter until the second half began with his team trailing 4-0.
Meanwhile, Hahnemann had an easy afternoon in the Reading net, making six saves, none particularly difficult in earning his seventh shutout in 22 outings.
Hahnemann was terrific in goal for Reading with 11 saves, but came out on the losing end Saturday when the shorthanded Royals lost to Manchester United.
The match turned in the 59th minute when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer handcuffed Hahnemann with a blast and Ronaldo was quick to put away the rebound for a 2-1 lead.
Then, Reading reserve defender Sam Sodje picked up two yellow cards in his 10 minutes of action, being sent off in the 69th minute. Man. U. took advantage and besieged Hahnemann with Ronaldo netting his second tally eight minutes later to make it 3-1.
Leroy Lita scored for Reading in stoppage time.
Solskjaer put Man. U. ahead 1-0 in the 33rd minute with Ibrahima Sonko matching the goal for the Royals five minutes later.
Reading (9-10-3, 30 points) is in ninth place, two points below seventh with its most difficult road matches behind it. West Ham (5-14-3, 18) slipped into 18th place and the relegation zone, four points from safety.
Friedel has looked good lately and needed to make five saves on 16 Wigan shots to post his fifth league shutout and second in three games. Wigan keeper Chris Kirkland did not make a save, facing only one shot on goal during the run of play.
Rovers took the lead on an own goal in the 37th minute, increased the margin on Matt Derbyshire's tally in the 58th minute and finished off the Latics with Benedict McCarthy's penalty kick in the 76th minute.
Friedel's best effort came in the 25th minute when he turned away Josip Skoko's swerving, 20-yard half-volley. At the start of the second half, Emile Heskey -- who was responsible for the own goal -- triggered a hard shot that deflected off Rovers defender Stephane Henchoz, but Friedel reacted properly and turned it away.
After an extraordinary Boxing Day effort to defeat visiting Liverpool 1-0 last Tuesday, Friedel deserved an easy afternoon and got one in Saturday's 2-1 defeat of visiting Middlesbrough Ewood Park.
Friedel was called upon to make six saves, but none were diificult. He did concede a penalty kick to Aiyegbeni Yakubu penalty in the 61st minute after Shabani Nonda had put Blackburn ahead early. South African Benni McCarthy gaveRovers the victory by scoring in the 74th minute.
With three straight victories since an embarrassing 6-2 setback at Arsenal December 23, Blackburn seemingly has removed any concerns of relegation, having climbed to 11th place at 8-9-4 with 28 points in the tightly-packed mid-table. Ten points separate seventh and 17th place with Wigan (6-11-4, 22) at the bottom of that group. Exactly one point separates each of the 11 teams from one other.
Rovers, who won Group E of the UEFA Cup and is among 32 clubs to advance to the knockout round, is in position to make a run at qualifying for European competition next season.
United States keeper Tim Howard made eight saves, but wound up on the losing end with visiting Everton falling 2-1 at Manchester City today.
City received a pair of goals from second-half substitute, young Greek international Georgios Samaras, the second coming on a penalty kick, while Everton demonstrated little offensive muscle.
With a hamstring injury, midfielder Claudio Reyna was on the sidelines with several ailing or suspended City teammates, leaving an opening for his U.S. teammate, midfielder DaMarcus Beasley, who went the distance and added pace to the victors' attack.
Beasley could not have chosen a better time to score his first goal for Manchester City Saturday when his 83rd-minute strike defeated host West Ham 1-0 at Upton Park.
Beasley came on for Stephen Ireland in the 65th minute and his first action in quite awhile paid off in a big way. In a brilliant piece of work, he first pushed the ball between two defenders, including Spector, and then outraced the pair to the ball before blasting it past keeper Robert Green.
City (8-9-5, 29) has climbed to 10th place, one point behind Reading, while dropping Everton (8-7-7, 31) to eighth place.
On Saturday, Howard had a relaxing day in a 3-0 romp over visiting Newcastle United at Goodison Park.
Victor Anichebe had a pair of goals, while Phil Neville added amother, while Howard made four routine saves. His one moment of anxiety came in the 45th minute when Obafemi Martins had apenalty kick, but sent it sailing over the crossbar.
American striker Brian McBride and defender Carlos Bocanegra were among several Fulham players to squander golden scoring opportunities, while Heidar Helguson had a pair of apparent goals ruled offside and the host Cottagers could do no better than a 0-0 draw today with last-place Watford.
McBride, who missed scoring by inches on a pair of headers, tired and came out in the 78th minute.
American defender Jay DeMerit played 90 minutes for Watford, which escaped poor play in the back in the first half, but grew more solid on defense later in the match as Fulham wore out.
Fulham (6-7-9, 27) fell to 12th place, while the Hornets are 1-10-9 (12 points), 10 points from escaping the drop zone.
U.S. defender Cory Gibbs has yet to make an appearance for his new club Charlton Athletic because of surgery to repair cartilage damage in his right knee. A free transfer from ADO Den Haag of the Netherlands prior to this season, Gibbs made his debut for the Charlton reserve team November 20, playing the first half of a 4-2 loss to host Reading.
Unfortunately for Gibbs, the reserves do not have another match until a January 22 visit to Chelsea. Prior to that, he last played in a game April 22 for ADO.