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Reyna lifts Sunderland to 1-0 win over Everton, capturing his historic meeting with Moore; Stewart's goal helps NAC Breda win, near top of Dutch Eredivisie.

Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.),
Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.)
Joel Lange (in England),
and Mark Flannery (in France)

(Sunday, December 23, 2001) -- While many of Europe’s soccer leagues have started their winter breaks, England’s league’s still were in full session despite dreadful weather. And in a near blizzard yesterday, United States midfielder Claudio Reyna provided a memorable home debut for Sunderland, scoring the only goal in a 1-0 victory over Everton in the Premier League.

Reyna’s U.S. teammate, striker Joe-Max Moore made his first start of the season for the Blues. Observers could not remember a previous occasion when American field players faced each other in a Premier League match, certainly not over the course of 90 minutes.

It was snowing so heavily that many of the 48,013 fans at Sunderland’s "Stadium of Light" could barely see the field at times, leading to a paucity of scoring chances and an abundance of sloppy play.

The triumph allowed Sunderland (6-7-5) to join Everton (6-7-5) and Fulham 5-4-8 in a three-way tie for ninth-place with 23 points atop a scrum where four other clubs are within two points of that trio.

"It was a massive relief, I’ve got to say that," manger Peter Reid told the Sunderland web site of Reyna’s late goal and earning a tough victory. "It was hard to break (Everton) down and I’ve got to say the fans have done well getting here, but they were very difficult conditions out there for the players. The players have done well to play in those conditions. It wasn’t a classic, but three points was the most important thing.

"There were a couple of good individual performances. I thought Claudio showed what a good he is and was composed on the ball and can get into goal-scoring positions for us from the middle of the park. I thought he played really well."

As he had in his debut last week, Reyna played in the center of midfield and pushed more into the offense then he had in Scotland where his role for Glasgow Rangers was more defensive.

In the 77th minute, striker Kevin Phillips put the ball into the path of the hard charging Reyna who ripped a shot which Everton goalkeeper Steve Simonsen stopped. The rebound came to Sunderland forward Jason McAteer who drove it back across the face of the goal for Reyna to collect and poke home past a helpless Simonsen.

"Besides being very, very tidy on the ball, and composed on it, (Reyna) has the ability to get in those positions," Reid said. "On the goal, I though he tried to be too precise and the keeper made a save and I though, ‘Here we go!’ But, fortunately for us, Jason McAteer was following up and Claudio was able to stick it in the net for us."

Moore, who had scored coming off the bench in Everton’s last two outings, represented himself well in his first starting assignment, In the 43rd minute, he drilled a 30-yard free kick right at keeper Thomas Sorensen.

Also in the Premiership, American keeper Brad Friedel posted a clean sheet for Blackburn Rovers who snapped a five-match winless streak 2-0 over host Charlton Athletic which had won four in a row. Both clubs are tied for 12th place at 5-6-7 with 22 points.

Also played in difficult weather, Friedel was called on to make two difficult saves, both times frustrating striker Jason Euell. In the 34th minute, Euell hit an in-swinging cross that Friedel gathered smartly before it could cause problems. Nine minutes later, Friedel went down to take the ball off Euell’s foot as he advanced on goal. Play had to be stopped to allow Friedel to regain his senses after being kicked for his trouble.

Strikers by Damien Duff in the 57th minute and David Dunn deep into stoppage time gave Rovers the victory in the Valley.

The victory was the ninth of the 2001-02 season for Friedel and Blackburn, including four in the Worthington Cup. Friedel has played every minute for Rovers this season in their return to the Premier League.

In the First Division, American keeper Ian Feuer made a rare appearance for Wimbledon, albeit under strange circumstances yesterday when starter Kelvin Davis was shown a red card in the 59th minute of a 2-1 loss to Norwich.

After David Nielsen, who put Norwich ahead 1-0 in the 16th minute on a diving header, was pulled down on a weaving run through the Dons’ box, earning a penalty kick, Davis picked up the loose ball and through it at the Danish striker.

Davis was sent off and Iwan Roberts beat Feuer with the penalty kick for a 2-0 lead.

Feuer did not allow any more damage and David Connolly netted a PK of his own for the Canaries four minutes later to make it 2-1. However, Wimbledon, reduced to nine men when Jermaine Darlington was ejected in the 72nd minute, could not overcome its manpower shortage.

In the Netherlands, the KPN Eredivisie held its final session before the winter break yesterday with U.S. striker Earnie Stewart producing another key goal for NCA Breda in a 2-1 decision over Heerenveen.

NAC (10-5-4, 34 points) went into the break tied for third, two point behind league-leading Ajax (11-4-3), one behind Feyenoord Rotterdam (11-4-2), even with PSV Eindhoven (10-5-4) and two points ahead of Heerenveen (9-5-5) and FC Utrecht (9-5-5).

After Brazilian Sergio, who alternated between being a hero and a villain for NAC, was taken down to the left of the penalty area, Stewart struck a sweet free kick to put NAC ahead in the 32nd minute.

Ten minutes later, it was Sergio who scored to make it 2-0 with a tap-in following a combination of passes with defender Csaba Feher, a Hungarian. Sergio, however, was sent off with a red card in the 74th minute for kicking Heerenveen defender Said Bakkati in retaliation for a foul.

Danish midfielder Allan Bak Jensen was able to exploit the man advantage to make it 2-1 in the 84th minute.

Today, Ajax seemed to run out of gas and motivation in the late going, allowing a 1-0 advantage at the break disintegrate into a 3-1 defeat at Utrecht. U.S. midfielder John O’Brien went the distance in fine fashion, initiating the Ajax scoring sequence, making a nice feed that should have produced a two-goal advantage and barely missing a shot from inside the penalty area that again could have made the score 2-0.

Ajax jumped in front 1-0 in the sixth minute on a goal from Andy van der Meyde on a play started by O’Brien.

In the 26th minute, a corner from O’Brien went right to Sousa Campos Wamberto’s head, but goalkeeper Harald Wapenaar there to save the shot. In the 40th minute, O’Brien worked loose to collect a pass and made a nice run into the box, but his blast was inches high.

Things fell apart for Ajax in the final half hour with Stefaan Tanghe scoring in the 62nd minute to tie matters, Tom van Mol netting the winner in the 74th and Arco Jochemsen adding the exclamation point in the 86th.

Senior correspondent Robert Wagman compiled and edited this column. He can be e-mailed at bobwagman@soccertimes.com. SoccerTimes managing editor Gary Davidson also contributed and can be e-mailed at editor@soccertimes.com.

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