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Keller is outstanding in Hotspurís 1-1 draw with Aston Villa; Berhalter, Kirovski key Crystal Palace 2-1 victory over Bradford City.

Reyna pressure helps Sunderland dismiss Rovers, Friedel, in 3-0 triumph; Thorrington returns with pair to lead Huddersfield Town over Peterborough.

Reyna lifts Sunderland to 1-0 win over Everton, capturing his historic meeting with Moore.

Moore scores again off bench, but this time Everton loses; O'Brien finds net in Ajax rout.

Americans Abroad

Keller is one better than Friedel in head-to-head meeting, Tottenham Hotspur edges Blackburn Rovers 1-0; Reyna ankle injury could be serious.

Claudio Reyna
Claudio Reyna, pictured here in early action, was carried off on a stretcher in the 21st minute with an ankle injury that will be further evaluated on Wednesday.
By Robert Wagman (in Washington, D.C.)
and Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.)

(Tuesday, January 1, 2002) -- Kasey Keller struck a blow in his battle to regain his position as the United States starting goalkeeper, posting his first shutout for Tottenham Hotspur this afternoon 1-0 in a head-to-head meeting with Brad Friedel and Blackburn Rovers in Englandís Premier League.

This does not mean that Friedel didnít perform sensationally in the losing effort.

Meanwhile, midfielder Claudio Reyna, the U.S. captain and recent Sunderland acquisition, was carried off on a stretcher following a crushing tackle from Aston Villa's Lee Hendrie in the 21st minute of a 1-1 draw. His ankle was put in a splint and will be frequently iced until a Wednesday MRI reveals the extent of the injury. Ligament damage is feared.

Keller, the starter for the U.S. in the 1998 World Cup and 1996 Summer Olympics, lost his status as the unquestionable U.S. No. 1 when he accepted a transfer from Rayo Vallecano in Spain to Tottenham in mid-August. With Neil Sullivan seeing all the action in goal for the Spurs while Friedel was starting for Rovers, it was Friedel who Bruce Arena selected for the key World Cup final-round qualifiers when the Americansí eventual advance to the 2002 quadrennial tournament was in doubt.

Until Saturday, Keller had started only one Worthington Cup match and had not seen a minute of action in league play. Now heís riding two strong performances, though he knows he has no room for error if he wants to keep Sullivan on the bench and earn back his U.S. starterís job.

"I knew when I came to Spurs that I was going to have to be a little bit patient," Keller said. "The first month was difficult because I was going to games knowing I wasn't going to play, something I really haven't done since my early days at Millwall (of a 1990-96 stint). But now I've got the chance and I just want to get a good run going at Tottenham to help my World Cup chances, but also knowing that if I slip up then the manager will have no hesitation in putting Neil back in.

"Brad is my main competitor for the USA team and he has had a very good year with Blackburn. For me it would have been very difficult to expect to challenge to play in the World Cup if I went the whole of this season without playing for Tottenham. I played in the majority of the qualifying games - but Brad has played the last couple when I have not been playing first-team football It was a bit of a worry for me. I have a good history with the national side but it is still difficult for the manager to choose you if you are not playing regularly.

It was Friedel who had to be at his best early, making several fine saves in the first 20 minutes. Only moments after watching Steffen Freund and Teddy Sheringham waste free runs into the box with shots thaw went barely wide, Sherringham was denied by Friedel who was sharp to turn away his attempt in the fifth minute.

Ten minutes later, Friedel slowed a rocket from Gustavo Poyet and Craig Short was quick to clear the ball from the goal line.

There was nothing Friedel could do in the 44th minute when Spurs striker Dean Richards was left unmarked at the far post to nod home Darren Anderton perfectly-placed corner kick.

With neither side apparently thrilled about playing in the frigid temperatures, Blackburn could do little with Spursí defense until the 79th minute when prized $11.6 million newcomer Andy Cole, making his debut, forced Keller into the save of the match. Lucas Neill fought into a crowd to bend a ball to an unmarked Cole who rocketed a 10-yard header that Keller somehow parried away. A rebound shot was deflected to safety by the defense.

Roversí attack became more intense, but Keller made a couple of more good saves and his defense scrambled around him to protect the clean sheet.

On Saturday, Keller was deprived of a shutout victory in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa only when a conceded a penalty kick in stoppage time, sparking a tirade from Hotspur manager Glenn Hoddle who opined the final whistle should have blown before his defender Darren Anderton was ruled to have handled the ball.

With today's victory, Tottenham (9-8-4, 31 points) climbed to seventh place, 10 points behind first-place Leeds (11-2-8). Rovers fell into a tie with 15th place at 5-9-7 with 22 points

American Joe-Max Moore came on in the 37th minute for Everton and was probably his sideís best attacker, but it wasnít enough to prevent a fifth straight defeat 1-0 to Middlebrough.

In the 47th minute, Evertonís best scoring attempt came when Moore burst into the penalty area, switched the ball from his left foot to right and drilled a shot which was well-saved by keeper Mark Crossley.

Otherwise, Everton sputtered and manager Walter Smith probably will be fired before another game, If the prevalent rumors in Britain are true, it will be interesting to see how it affects Moore, who has only one start this season and saw little action until recently when his strong play demanded he see action.

The only other American playing on New Year's Day in England was Reading keeper Marcus Hahnemann who was seldom busy, but did make one brave save in blanking Port Vale 2-0 in the Second Division. The keeper, on loan from Fulham of the Premier League, dove at the feet of Ian Armstrong to keep the match scoreless early.

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

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