The winter break offered a much-needed respite for Aron Johannsson and an AZ Alkmaar side that had suffered four straight league losses before the new year.
The Cheese Farmers kicked off the 2014 half of the Eredivisie season in style, rolling to a 3-0 victory over NEC Breda that saw Johannson score his 12th league goal of the season, and 19th in all competitions. The U.S. national team striker tallied just before halftime in a win that helped AZ climb into seventh place in the league.
The performance of the weekend was not turned in by Johannsson, but rather by goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who delivered several key saves in Aston Villa’s 2-2 tie against Liverpool on Sunday. The Villans jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Liverpool battled back to equalize. Guzan was whistled for the penalty which tied the game on a questionable foul on Luis Suarez, which Steven Gerrard converted, but Guzan helped preserve the precious road point with a spectacular one-handed diving save late in the second half.
Jozy Altidore didn’t find the net for Sunderland, but he did earn the start in the team’s 2-2 tie against Southampton on Saturday. The draw helped the Black Cats climb out of last place in the Premier League, and the team is now just one point from escaping the relegation zone.
Clint Dempsey could do little to keep Fulham from dropping closer to the relegation zone after a 2-0 loss to league-leading Arsenal. Dempsey played the full 90 minutes for the Cottagers but had little success against the Gunners.
Stoke City isn’t in the relegation zone, but the Potters’ 1-0 loss to Crystal Palace marked the team’s fourth defeat in a five-match winless skid. Geoff Cameron went the full 90 minutes for a Stoke side just four points out of the relegation places.
In the League Championship, Oguchi Onyewu made his Sheffield Wednesday debut in a 1-1 draw against Burnley on Saturday. Onyewu helped set up Wednesday’s lone goal and played the full 90 minutes in his first club action in eight months.
Danny Williams and Reading enjoyed a stellar day against Tim Ream and Bolton, posting a 7-1 thrashing of the Trotters on Saturday. Both Williams and Ream played the full 90 minutes in a win that moved Reading into sixth place in the English second tier.
Nottingham Forest posted a 4-1 victory against Blackburn on Saturday to maintain its hold on fifth place. U.S. international Eric Lichaj didn't dress for the game with a minor injury.
At the other end of the table, Brek Shea helped Barnsley record the team’s first win in six matches with a 2-0 victory against Blackpool. Shea started and played 76 minutes for Barnsley, which still sits in last place in the League Championship.
In France, Alejandro Bedoya came on as a first-half substitute for Nantes in a 5-0 loss to powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain. Bedoya entered the match in the 30th minute, but could do little to help stop the league leaders.
In Belgium, Sacha Kljestan came on as a halftime sub for Anderlecht in the club's 2-1 loss to KV Mechelen. The two-time defending champions remain in second place.
In Mexico, all five of Club Tijuana’s Americans saw action on Saturday against Pachuca, but they couldn’t prevent the Xolos from suffering a 2-1 loss. Herculez Gomez and Edgar Castillo started the match, while Joe Corona, Paul Arriola and Greg Garza came on as second-half substitutes.
DaMarcus Beasley and Michael Orozco both started for Puebla in a 0-0 tie against Santos Laguna on Friday. Beasley played the full match while Orozco played 65 minutes.
Jose Torres came off the bench and played 33 minutes in Tigres’ 2-0 loss to Morelia on Friday.
- Sports & Recreation
- Brad Guzan