(Thursday, March 8, 2007) -- United States defender Carlos Bocanegra is hoping Fulham can make a late push to climb into the top half of the English Premier League standings.
With nine matches remaining, Fulham (7-10-12, 33 points) is tied with Aston Villa (7-9-12) for 13th place, though Villa owns a game in hand, The Cottagers, seven points removed from the top half of the 20-team league standings, is off until March 17 when they head to Wigan Athletic, which is a point behind in 15th place.
"We need to push on and it's going to be very tough game against Wigan, but we need to come away with something," Bocanegra told his club's web site. "We want to get into the top 10 and we need to put in a push. We want to get back out there and get a win. We need to get a result. Wigan are close to us in the table, so we need to win and kick on from there. It's going to be an important game. We've got a few matches coming up where we can pick up some points.
"Obviously we're going to keep going for 10th place and we won't stop until the end of the season. If we can get a run of two or three results, we will be right back in there."
A rare goal by Bocanegra earned Fulham a 1-1 home draw with Aston Villa before 24,552 at Craven Cottage in the English Premier League Saturday.
"It wasn't the prettiest of games on Saturday, but we showed the right attitude and went out there and tried to get the win," Bocanegra said. "Villa did a good job of making it hard for us -- they were compact and pressed well. Their defenders broke up a lot of play. . . We had a few good chances and could have scored -- we put in a good effort and our attitude was right.
Two minutes after Villa took the lead, Bocanegra responded. After Fulham defender Liam Rosenior was fouled around 40 yards out, fellow back Franck Queudrue lifted a free kick to the far post where Bocanegra headed it home from close range for his third goal of the season.
"We wanted to get a win. We're happy that we played hard, but it didn't bounce our way," Bocanegra said. "We didn't dominate them and it was kind of an even game. Obviously I enjoy scoring and it's nice, but it's a team effort and I just happened to be the one who scored on Saturday. Whoever it is it doesn't matter as long as it helps the team.
"Franck put in a good ball and I snuck around the back and it worked out well. We needed a team effort on Saturday and it was nice to help out offensively as well."
U.S. striker Brian McBride played 80 minutes, but was closely marked and had few chances. The Cottagers' third American, midfielder Clint Dempsey dressed, but did not play.
Blackburn Rovers, who played well, but were eliminated by a 3-2 aggregate score by Germany's Bayer Leverkusen from the UEFA Cup's Round of 16, responded by beating Arsenal 1-0 in a fifth-round replay in the FA Cup. Rovers will host Manchester City Sunday in the quarterfinals.
As often has been the case, American Brad Friedel has been solid in goal for Rovers, earning four clean sheets in his past five matches, but his team often cannot generate much attack.
On Sunday, Friedel's streak of four straight shutouts came to an end, but he came up big on several occasions, making nine saves to lead Blackburn to a 2-1 road victory over the previously hot Bolton Wanderers before 21,743 at Reebok Stadium.
Two of Friedel's best stops came on Gary Speed. After South African Benedict McCarthy converted a pair of second-half penalty kicks for Rovers, Friedel final conceded a goal on a dazzling finish by Nicolas Anelka in the 87th minute. This produced a furious end to the match in which Abdoulaye Faye beat Friedel with a shot in stoppage time, only to have the apparent equalizer waved off by an offside call.
McCarthy provided the decisive tally with four minutes remaining to give Blackburn a 1-0 victory over Arsenal February 28 in the FA Cup. After entering in the 60th minute, he raced down the left side and cut inside defender Philippe Senderos before an angled 25-yard shot high inside the far post.
Arsenal had two appeals for penalty kicks ignored by referee Graham Poll in the first half. The first came after Friedel raced off his line and collided with Jeremie Aliadiere, sending the Gunners striker flying. Later, Rovers defender Brett Emerton upended Fredrik Ljungberg inside the corner of the penalty area.
Friedel did well getting his fingers on a hard shot from Julio Baptista and tipping it over the bar in the 53rd minute. Eighteen minutes later, he pushed a 20-yard blast from Baptista around a goalpost.
The replay was necessary after late heroics by Friedel allowed Blackburn to hold on for a scoreless draw February 17 at Arsenal's Emirates Stadium. At times, Rovers had every player behind the ball and thwarted repeated Gunners thrusts for 85 minutes. In the last five minutes, Arsenal was able to break through, but Friedel was up to the task.
In the 85th minute Tomas Rosicky seemed to have a sure goal from about three yards, but Friedel stuck out a leg to deflect the ball. Then, a minute later, Thierry Henry came in on an angle and seemed to have the far corner picked out, but Friedel pushed the point-blank shot wide. It struck several players and came to Justin Hoyte, who also let go from close range, but Friedel was again up to the challenge.
In the UEFA Cup, Blackburn opened with a 3-2 loss at Leverkusen, but could not convert several golden chances in a 0-0 draw February 22 at home at Ewood Park.
Friedel was credited with only one save in the home leg. While Rovers dominated the action, they could not get a ball past Leverkusen keeper Jorg Butt.
On February 25, Friedel made seven saves behind one of Blackburn's best offensive displays of the season, a 3-0 triumph over visiting Portsmouth 3-0. Shabani Nonda scored twice, but missed a penalty kick.
Rovers are in 10th place at 12-13-4 with 40 points, but are only three points below sixth which brings a UEFA Cup berth.
Reading dropped a pair of league road matches, but still is in good position for the UEFA Cup, tied for sixth place at 13-12-4 with 43 points. The Royals also saw their FA Cup run end in the Round of 16.
Going to Emirates Stadium and facing Arsenal is a tall task, given the Gunners are unbeaten in the 31 matches they've played since opening the facility, and Reading was dominated and fell 2-1 Saturday.
U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann was strong, doing well to stop a hard drive from Fredrik Ljungberg in the first half. Shortly after intermission, Hahnemann made an acrobatic save on Francesc Fabregas.
After Arsenal went ahead on Gilberto Silva's penalty kick in the 51st minute, Hahnemann came up big again to deny Theo Walcott nine minutes later. However, Hahnemann could not prevent Julio Baptista from making it 2-0 in the 62nd minute.
An own goal by Fabregas in the 87th minute allowed the Royals to get on the scoreboard.
On February 24, Reading dropped a 2-1 road decision to Middlesbrough at The Riverside Stadium. Hahnemann ended the day with six saves, but he could do little with classic finishes by Mark Viduka in the seventh minute and by Ayegbeni Yakubu in the 69th. The home side dominated the match and Reading was not able to create many chances.
John Oster again gave the Royals a few minutes of contention with a strike in the 87th minute, but it was too little, too late.
U.S. midfielder Bobby Convey, whose season has ended, is back in the U.S. awaiting knee surgery.
Three days after that, Hahnemann watched three goals go by in the first six minute and Manchester United held on for a 3-2 victory in the FA Cup fifth round at Reading's Madejski Stadium
U.S. keeper Tim Howard and sixth-place Everton have had their ups and down recently .
On Saturday, the Toffees went to Sheffield United's Bramall Lane and were lucky to escape with a 1-1 draw on Mikel Arteta's penalty kick in the 75th minute.
Howard had seven saves in a solid afternoon effort, including a pair of stops on shots by Jon Stead, yet there was little he could do when United striker Rob Hulse beat Sheffield defender Joseph Yobo to steer a right-wing cross from Colin Kazim-Richards past Howard into a corner of the net.
Howard's clean sheet February 24 was one of the highlights of a 3-0 romp over host cellar-dweller Watford at Vicarage Road Stadium.
Watford nearly jumped ahead on an early goal in the first five minutes when Malky Mackay beat Howard to a ball that had come off a defender. Mackay's lifted a header over the American keeper, but also shot over the crossbar.
Then, Everton quickly took charge and Manuel Fernandes put it ahead 1-0 in the 23rd minute. Two minutes later, Andrew Johnson was taken down in the box by Watford's American defender Jay DeMerit, who received a yellow card. Johnson converted the penalty to allow the Toffees to double their advantage.
Leon Osman's tally in stoppage time made it 3-0.
Howard was not all that busy, making four saves, the best one coming just before the halftime break when he steered a hard shot by Mackay around a post.
The result buoyed Everton, which dropped a tough match at home three days earlier 2-1 to to Tottenham Hotspur when Howard was beaten for a late goal at Goodison Park.
Spurs striker Dimitar Berbatov was a major problem for Howard and the Everton defense all night. Early, he headed a soft ball into Robbie Keane's path and Howard had to move quickly to get the ball or Keane would have been in alone.
There was little Howard could do in the 35th minute when Berbatov ran on to a pass and hit a rocket into the corner of the net foe a 1-0 lead. Everton responded seven minutes later on Arteta's free-kick strike.
Twice in the second half, Howard denied Berbatov, but as the clock wound down when as it looked as if the home side was playing to hold the point. But in the 88th minute Jeraine Jenas took a pass Steed Malbranque 20 yards out, looked up and beat Howard to the bottom corner for the winner.
At 11-8-10, Everton is even with Reading with 43 points.