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Americans Abroad

After victimizing Friedel, Fulham near clinching first division's title

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

(Wednesday, April 11, 2001) -- Fulham of Englandís first division had itself a great night, much to the distress of American goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

After coming from behind by scoring two goals on Friedel, Fulham, assured of promotion to the Premier League next season, used Sean Davisís tally in injury time to move to within one point of clinching first place with the 2-1 victory over the second-place Blackburn Rovers.

It was certainly not Friedelís best night for Blackburn. Rovers had taken an early lead and seemed to be in the drivers seat when Fulhamís Rufus Brevett was sent off with a red card for violent play in the 42nd minute.

Three minutes later, however, just before the half time whistle blew, Friedel came out of his goal to easily gather a cross only to collide with his own defender, Henning Berg. Friedel lost control of the ball which fell at the feet of Fulhamís Louis Saha, who tapped it into the open goal to make it 1-1.

Blackburn could not take advantage of being a man up through a hard-fought second-half before Fulham received anotyher gift in extra time. Friedel moved to one side of his goal to collect Lee Clarkís hard shot, but the ball never reached him. Instead, it deflected off a defender to the feet of Davis who knocked home the winner.

Friedel did make several strong saves, especially one on Saha in the 77th minute, but that did not erase the memory of the keeperís dropped ball before intermission

"We knew we would get punched on the nose sooner or later and it happened here in the most horrible way imaginable," Roverís manager Graeme Souness said. "It just wasn't our night, and we couldn't do a lot about it."

Even with the setback, Blackburn remained in the second place which carries the second and final ticket for automatic promotion. Rovers are three points ahead Bolton Wanderers, and additionally are plus-three in goal differential. Both clubs have matches this weekend against much lower-ranked teams. Neither can afford to lose a point.

American keeper Marcus Hahnemann served as Fulhamís backup keeper, but United States midfielder Eddie Lewis did not dress.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com.

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