Tottenham nears Champions League entry behind solid play from Friedel.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
(Tuesday, May 1, 2012) -- The steady play of American Brad Friedel in goal is as strong a reason as any for Tottenham Hotspur's pursuit of a berth in the European Champions League.
Friedel posted his 13th clean sheet of the season Sunday, making five saves and controlling his penalty area in leading Spurs to a 2-0 triumph over visiting Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League. Paired with Newcastle United's shocking 4-0 road loss to relegation-threatened Wigan Athletic, Tottenham inched closer to a berth in the Champions League play-in round.
The first three teams in the Premier League qualify for the Champions League. The fourth-place finisher advances to a Champions League play-in tournament.
With three matches remaining, Spurs (18-9-8, 62 points) are tied for fourth place with Newcastle (18-9-8), but hold the tie-breaker by virtue of a plus-20 goal differential to United's plus-7. Spurs trail third place Arsenal (20-10-6) by dour points, but own a game in hand.
Tottenham has road games with Bolton Wanderers (tied for 17 th place) and Aston Villa (tied for 15th place) left on the schedule before closing at home Fulham (ninth place). Newcastle would seem to have a much tougher go of it with fourth-place Chelsea on the road, first-place Manchester City at home and seventh place Everton on the road.
Arsenal hosts Norwich City (tied for 13th place) before ending on the road with West Bromwich Albion (tied for ninth place).
By one estimate, the additional income derived by finishing fourth instead of fifth would be approximately $32.5 million.
American-born Welsh defender Adam Henley did not dress for Blackburn in its loss to Spurs.
At one point earlier in the season, Everton (14-12-9, 51) appeared capable of finishing in the top four, but now must hold off Liverpool (and possibly others) for seventh place and a berth in Europe's second-tier Europa League next season.
U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard earned his 11th shutout Saturday in Everton's 4-0 thrashing of fading Fulham.
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey remains one of Fulham's few bright spots.
Fulham (12-13-10, 46), tied for ninth place, will likely have to win two of its last three to remain there and qualify for the Europa League play-in tournament.
U.S. defender Eric Lichaj logged a strong match for desperate Aston Villa in a 0-0 draw with West Brom..
Villa, which had great hopes this season, now finds itself only three positions and three points clear of the relegation zone and fighting for every point.
American Brad Guzan was again Villa's backup keeper.
U.S. defender Tim Ream went the distance Saturday for Bolton Wanderers in its 2-2 draw with Sunderland.
Bolton (10-21-4, 34) is in the relegation zone, tied for 17th place with Queens Park Rangers (9-20-7), but with an inferior goal differential by three.
American defender Zak Whitbread has an injured groin and is sidelined for Norwich City, a 3-0 loser to Liverpool on Saturday.
In the second-division English League Championship, no American played this past weekend.
Defender Jonathan Spector has an ailing thigh and is unavailable to Birmingham City, striker Conor Doyle has an injured hamstring and is sidelined for Derby County and midfielder Robbie Rogers hurt his ankle and is out for Leeds United.
U.S. striker Robbie Findley did not dress for Nottingham Forest.
In the third-tier League One, American defender Frank Simek went the distance for Carlisle United in its 4-1 victory Saturday over Exeter City.
American forward Mike Grella played 85 minutes for Bury in a 0-0 draw with Oldham Athletic.
American midfielder Anton Peterlin did not dress for Walsall, which drew 1-1 with Huddersfield Town.
In Scotland, Glasgow Celtic put an exclamation point on crosstown rival Rangers' disastrous season Sunday with a 3-0 Old Firm win.
U.S. defender Carlos Bocanegra and midfielder Maurice Edu went 90 minutes for Rangers, while midfielder Alejandro Bedoya dressed, but did not play.
Rangers are in bankruptcy (called "administration") and the Scottish Football Association ruled this week that should they emerge under new ownership, they will and not allowed to acquire new players on the transfer market next season even if there is a major infusion of cash by the new owners.
Rangers' current owner, Craig Whyte has been banned for life from Scottish football and the league will meet shortly to consider other penalties, including a 10-point deduction in the standings next season like was assessed for 2011-12.
There are at least three perspective ownership groups bidding for the Rangers, including one led by American Bill Miller. Bidding has already has approached $18 million.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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