(Sunday, March 25, 2007) -- With no Premier League games scheduled with this weekend set aside for international matches, Blackburn Rovers have an extra week to stew over the 2-1 home loss March 17 to relegation-threatened West Ham United, which used a pair of disputed goals to erase a deficit, in the process snapping a five-match losing streak and winning for the first time on the road in the 2006-07 season.
Even West Ham manager Alan Curbishley admitted Bobby Zamora's decisive tally in the 75th minute never crossed the goal-line.
Before 18,591 who braved the rain at Ewood Park, Christopher Samba gave Rovers a 1-0 lead two minutes after intermission, a lead that held up until Blackburn defender was charged with bringing down West Ham striker Carlos Tevez in his penalty area.
Emerton was joined by Rovers fans in an expression of displeasure, insinuating Tevez had taken a dive, but a minute later the Argentine international converted the subsequent penalty kick to tie matters at 1-1.
Four minutes later, Tevez beat Friedel with a shot from close range, but the ball was cleared from the goal-line by a defender. The Hammers put the ball back in front of the net and, as Friedel reached for it, Zamora, a reserve forward, back-heeled it toward goal.
Referee Howard Webb's vision was blocked, but assistant referee Jim Devine ruled a goal. Replays showed clearly the ball never crossed the line, but was swept away by Tevez, who was trying to direct the ball into the net. To make matters worse, Tevez was in an offside position.
After the match, Curbishley admitted the ball had not crossed the goal-line. "We created a few chances and we made our own luck," he rationalized. "I have just seen the replay of the second goal and I will take that."
Rovers manager Mark Hughes was incensed, seeing his club's hopes of competing in Europe's second-tier UEFA Cup damaged. "I am absolutely astounded by the decision," he said. "The only debate I felt was whether the ball was over the line. Then when I went to see the video, the guy who cleared it was their man. He is clearly offside and interfering with play. Why the hell officials can't get that right I have no idea. He (the assistant referee) was able to see through two goalposts and a 6-foot-3 keeper and able to judge the ball was over the line. Referees are sometimes being undermined by their assistants. They have too much of an influence."
Hughes was also angry about the West Ham penalty kick. "We were 1-0 up and all of a sudden officials lent a hand," he said. "They got caught up in the emotion of the game. It was not a penalty as there was no contact. He (Tevez) knows what he is doing by inviting the challenge. He had it in his mind before going down."
Friedel made six saves, starting when he blocked a 20-yard attempt by Tevez in the first minute. In the 65th minute, Friedel did well to turn away a shot by Zamora from an acute angle.
To add insult to injury, Webb sent off Blackburn midfielder David Bentley in stoppage time with his second yellow card of the match.
"Then, to make a poor day even worse, (the) referee sends off David Bentley when it should be a free-kick to us as Lucas Neill pushed him into the ball." Hughes said.
At 12-14-4 with 40 points, Blackburn is in 10th place, six points below sixth place and its UEFA Cup invitation.
U.S. defender Jonathan Spector dressed for West Ham, but did not play for the third straight weekend. The Hammers, at 6-19-5 with 23 points are 19th in the 20-club EPL, sitting in the relegation zone, eight points from safety.
U.S. goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann is the top-rated goalkeeper in the Premier League after holding his own in a 0-0 draw with visiting Portsmouth March 17 before 24,087 at Madejski Stadium.
Reading and Hahnemann were fortunate not to drop their fourth straight decision. As it is the Royals are winless in five (0-3-2), but at 13-12-5 with 44 points, they are within two points of sixth place and its attendant UEFA Cup berth with eight matches to go. Portsmouth (11-10-9) trails Reading by two points.
Reading played well for the first 45 minutes, but had nothing to show for it. Then Portsmouth came on strong and dominated play after intermission, helped in part by a series of poor clearances by Hahnemann and his defenders.
In the 64th minute, Portsmouth striker Benjani Mwaruwari triggered a wicked shot and Hahnemann responded with a brilliant save. In the 81st minute, Hahnemann got lucky. Richard Hughes used his first touch from 25 yards out to send a curving drive that eluded the keeper's desperate drive, only to catch a post before being cleared.
In the 85th minute Hahnemann made a good save to deny Hughes.
U.S. keeper Tim Howard and Everton had a good day at home last Sunday when a stoppage time goal by forward Andrew Johnson defeated Arsenal 1-0 before 37,162 at Goodison Park.
Howard needed eight saves for his clean sheet with perhaps the best one coming early when he took the ball off the foot of Cesc Fabregas. Late in the match, Howard twice stopped shots by the French midfielder.
In the first minute of injury time, Mikel Arteta's corner kick was headed on by Johnson. Arsenal failed to clear and the ball came back to Johnson, who drilled home a left-footer from 12 yards for the winner.
Everton (12-8-10, 46 points) in sixth place, a position good enough for UEFA Cup entrance should the Toffees hold on.
Fulham played to a 0-0 draw with host Wigan before 16,001 who witnessed a match with little action at The JJB Stadium.
U.S. striker Brian McBride, who played the first 68 minutes, created Fulham's only first-half chance when he crossed to Papa Bouba Diop, whose header was just over the crossbar.
Fulham American Carlos Bocanegra, coming off being named to the EPL's best 11, as judged by the Actim Index, turned in another very strong effort for Fulham. In the 28th minute, Bocanegra had an inadvertent collision with Wigan striker Caleb Folan, who was sent off on a stretcher and will likely miss two Republic of Ireland Euro 2008 qualifiers this week.
Following two straight draws and winless in five (0-3-2), Fulham (7-10-13, 34) finally has a little breathing room, tied for 13th place with Aston Villa (7-10-13), seven points above the relegation zone with eight games left.
Beleaguered manager Stuart Pearce of floundering Manchester City likely was given a reprieve with an unexpected 2-0 road victory over Middlesbrough.
U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley replaced striker Darius Vassell in the 84th minute. On March 14, Beasley did not dress when City lost respectably to two-time defending EPL champion Chelsea 1-0 at home. That followed a 2-0 loss at Blackburn and elimination from the FA Cup quarterfinals three days earlier. Beasley entered that affair in the 57th minute.
The FA Cup loss led to calls for Pearce to be fired, though the cries abated some when City only conceded only a penalty kick to Frank Lampard in the loss to second-place Chelsea.
City (9-14-6, 33) is in 15th place, six points clear of the drop zone.
Watford remained in the EPL basement with a 3-1 road loss to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane in a match where Spurs keeper Paul Robinson scored. In the 63rd minute, Robinson sent a free kick from well inside his half of the field sailing into the Watford penalty area where it bounced and flew over the head of Watford's young keeper and fellow England international Ben Foster.
American defender Jay DeMerit was held out of the match by Watford after suffering a mid-week training injury. "Well, hopefully he'll be ale to recover in time to play for America," Watford manager Aidy Boothroyd said. "The last thing we want to do, after the way he's performed for me and the club, is for him to miss out on an international call-up. I think he deserves it."
DeMerit though summoned to national-team camp, was scratched from today's U.S. match against Ecuador because of his ailment.
Watford (3-16-11, 20) is three positions and 11 points from returning to the second division after be promoted to Premier League this year.