After long layoff, Dempsey scores decisive goal, Fulham edges Juventus in Europa Cup.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Thursday, March 18, 2010) -- After missing nearly two months because of a right knee injury, United States attacker Clint Dempsey came off the bench and scored the decisive goal to give host Fulham of Enlgand a 4-1 victory and, more importantly, a 5-4 aggregate triumph over Italy's Juventus in a two-match, Europa League third-round match at Craven College.
Dempsey, making the third appearance of his comeback, entered in the 71st minute and beat goalkeeper Antonio Chimenti 11 minutes later with a right-footed, chip shot to dispatch Juventus, which played a man down since the 27th minute and had a second man sent off in the 90th.
It was Dempsey's eighth goal of the season, second in the Europa League, Europe's second-tier competition.
"Nine times out of 10, it won't make it, but you've got to take a risk and fortunately enough it worked out tonight," Dempsey told Associated Press. "We conceded early in the game, but showed a lot of heart and a lot of character to fight back, and now we're through to the next round."
Fulham has never won a major title. Dempsey returned to action in the first leg of the series last Thursday in Turin, his first match since injuring his right knee in a Premier League game against Blackburn on January 17.
"It's great to be back playing and to score a big goal like this is a great experience."
Already leading 3-1 from the first leg, Juventus increased its lead to three when David Trezeguet scored in the second minute. Bobby Zamora tied the score in the ninth minute and Fabio Cannavaro was ejected for Juventus in the 27th.
"If it had stayed 11 versus 11, I don't think Juve would have been the ones eliminated," Juventus coach Alberto Zaccheroni told AP. "I think the referee was a bit too strict. (Cannavero) being sent off had an effect on the result."
Zoltan Gera scored in the 39th and converted a penalty kick in the 49th to take a 3-1 lead and even the score at 3-3 in aggregate.
Dempsey, who had a partially torn knee ligament, proved team doctors correct that he did not need season-ending surgery and successfully rehabbed the knee.
Dempsey made his return, playing the final 30 minutes of last Thursday's 3-1 loss at Juventus. On Sunday, he came on in the playing the final 30 minutes. On Sunday, he started and played 72 minutes in Fulham's 3-0 loss to Manchester United in the English Premier League.
U.S. striker Jozy Altidore played 82 minutes in Hull City's 2-1 loss to visiting Arsenal Saturday. He showed well, but Hull was clearly the inferior team and the loss dropped it into 19th place and three points into the relegation zone with the league's worst goal differential.
On Monday, Hull fired head coach Phil Brown leaving assistant coaches Brian Horton and Steve Parkin in charge of the club until a permanent replacement could be secured. Brown had Altidore in and out of the lineup so it is unclear what his status will be under the interim coaches.
More important, if Hull (5-15-9, 24 points) is relegated to the League Championship, its income level will drop significantly and it's unlikely the club will be able to exercise its option to buy Altidore from Villarreal, the Spanish club from which he was obtained this season on loan.
On March 7, Altidore came off the bench in the 62nd minute of a 5-1 loss to Everton.
U.S. keeper Marcus Hahnemann was brought to Wolverhampton of the Premier League as a mentor and backup to the team's two young keepers, but on Saturday he made his 16th consecutive start and had one of his best matches, making a season-high eight saves en route to a 2-1 victory over Burnley.
Breaking a four-match winless streak, Wolves (7-16-6, 27) is three points clear of the relegation zone.
On March 6, Wolverhampton fell just short 1-0 of visiting, league-leading Manchester United at Molineux Stadium.
Paul Scholes collected a poor clearance by defender Jody Craddock, took his time and beat Hahnemann. In the 72nd minute. Hahnemann ended with four saves.
On February 27, Hahnemann made eight saves, but Wolverhampton fell 1-0 to Bolton Wanderers.
Newly arrived U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden made his second appearance for Bolton and might have been Bolton's best player, taking all of Bolton's free kicks.
Holden made his debut starting in a 4-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the fifth round of the FA Cup. Bolton was victimized by two own goals.
Holden fractured his right fibula March 3 in the visiting U.S. men's 1-0 loss to the Netherlands and he was expected to be sidelined for six weeks. His debut with Bolton was delayed with a thigh injury he suffered in mid January. Still, the club is in the process of exercising an option of Holden's initial, six-month contract that was to end on June 30 and will keep him at Bolton for at least another full year.
"It's disappointing for Stuart because he has come into the team and done ever so well," Bolton manager Owen Coyle told the club's web site. "What we do know is he will come back bigger and stronger, but it is sad for him to miss out at this moment in time. He's come in with a real hunger and desire to do well for our club and, in the two games he's played, we've seen his quality."
"We've already spoken with him and his representative to assure him he will be here for longer because of the belief I have in him, and the quality he has shown since he came to the club. When we signed him, within the contract there was the option there to extend it further, which we will do. It augurs well for his future and that of the football club."
American keeper Brad Friedel continued his sharp play, making three saves and preserving another clean sheet in Aston Villa's 0-0 draw at Stoke City Saturday. The defensive-minded host never let Villa get started in a windy Britannia Stadium and the match ended up being a dull affair.
American Brad Guzan again served as Friedel's backup.
In an FA Cup quarterfinal match, Aston Villa traveled to Reading and came away with a come-from-behind 4-2 decision.
Reading, already the victor over Liverpool and Burnley of the Premier League, went ahead on a pair of goals by Shane Long.
In the second half, Villa came roaring back and went ahead 3-2 with three goals in the first 12 minutes. Friedel then held onto a volley from Reading substitute Grzegorz Rasiak before a stoppage-time penalty kick gave Villa its final margin.
On February 28, Friedel had the opportunity to win his second Carling Cup championship -- he won in 2002 with Blackburn Rovers - but Aston Villa lost to defending champion Manchester United 2-1 in front of 88,000-plus at Wembley Stadium.
Villa jumped into the lead on a minute penalty kick in the fifth minute, but a bad defensive miscue by Richard Dunne in clearing a ball allowed United striker Michael Owen to run onto the loose ball in the box drive it past Friedel to tie the score at 1-1.
Friedel palmed away a blast from Michael Carrick after halftime, but he was victimized by a perfectly-placed, looping header from forward Wayne Rooney in the 74th minute for the winner. Friedel ended the day with eight saves.
On Saturday, U.S. defender Jonathan Spector went the distance on the left side for West Ham United which was soundly defeated 4-1 by Chelsea.
Spector also went 90 minutes the previous weekend in a 2-1 loss to Bolton Wanderers.
Spector had a bit of a rough ride, getting caught in the midfield twice in the first 16 minutes with Bolton exploiting his vacated flank for right-side crosses that turned into goals.
Despite going up a man in the 71st minute, West Ham could do no better than a goal in the 88th minute.
Prior to that, Spector went the distance in a 3-0 midweek loss to Manchester United.
DeMerit plays in three Watford losses
In the second-tier League Championship play, U.S. defender Jay DeMerit went the distance in Watford's 1-0 defeat to Peterborough United Saturday.
That followed a 2-0 loss to Derby County in which DeMerit played 90 minutes.
Prior to that, Watford fell short 2-1 to league-leading Newcastle United. The winning goal came in the 50th minute when, on a set piece, Andrew Carroll got ahead of DeMerit and nodded his shot past Watford keeper Scott Loach.
American defender Frank Simek dressed, but did not play in Sheffield Wednesday's 0-0 draw Saturday with Swansea City.
In the prior outing, Simek came on at halftime in a 2-0 whitewash of Leicester City. Simek replaced Tommy Spurr, who was taken to the hospital with a possible concussion, and played well as Wednesday closed the match out giving up few chances.
Before that, Simek watch from the bench as Wednesday was routed 5-0 by Reading.
U.S. forward Kenny Cooper again stayed on Plymouth Argyle's bench in a 1-1 draw Saturday with Coventry City.
He was also relegated to the bench of a 1-1 draw with Preston North End.
In the third-division League One, American defender Zak Whitbread did not dress in Norwich City's 3-1 win Saturday over Huddersfield Town,
American striker Mike Grella did not dress in Leeds United's 1-0 loss Saturday to Southampton.
On March 6, Grella did not dress for a 1-1 draw with Brentford. Prior to that, he scored Leeds' only goal in a 3-1 reserve-team loss at Huddersfield Town.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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