TAHARKA TAYLOR - Monday, August 22, 2011
Tim Howard and Everton were embarrassed at home by new kids on the block QPR, and Clint Dempsey was unable to spark Fulham in their home loss to Wolves.

Everton 0 - 1 Queens Park Rangers

Tim Howard and Everton opened their English Premier League campaign in disappointing fashion losing at home to a newly promoted Queens Park Rangers team in front of 35,000 fans at Goodison Park.

Howard started and went the full 90 in goal for the Blues as time and time again the Liverpool club failed to break down a motivated Rangers defense.

Everton looked dangerous early, though it was Queens Park Rangers who provided the first meaningful attacking action of the game in the fourth minute.

Alejandro Faurlin sprung Mathew Connolly the wing where the left back whipped in a low cross several feet off the ground. It found Tommy Smith's delayed run at the top of the box where he hit it on the volley leaving Howard helpless as he watched the ball go just inches wide.

Everton thought they'd earned a penalty just three minutes later at the other end of the field after Jermaine Beckford tried to connect with an ambitious overhead volley but the striker miss hit it with the ball instead landing at the feet of Jack Rodwell. The England youth international took a touch but was run over from behind by Rangers' Connolly. Referee Kevin Friend, however, deemed that Rodwell had gone down too easily and let play continue despite numerous Everton protests.

Everton 17-year-old forward Ross Barkley was lively in his debut, the youngster did well to draw foul 18-yards out in the 22nd minute after making a run lengthwise across the penalty box evading several Rangers' defenders in the process before being brought down.

Leighton Baines almost put Everton on the scoreboard with the subsequent free kick, the left footed defender slammed his attempt off the underside of the post with an impressive bending effort.

Less than ten minutes later two mistakes from Philip Jagielka in the Everton defensive third put Queens Park Rangers ahead. First the veteran defender gave the ball away 35-yards out from goal before timidly stepping to Ákos Buzsáky even though there were several Everton defenders better positioned to handle the task. Jagielka's absence left Tommy Smith completely unmarked inside the penalty area, Buzsáky found him; Smith turned, and slotted one home beating an exposed Howard to his left for the only goal of the game.

Everton created plenty of chances on the day but solid goalkeeping from Paddy Kenny and some less than clinical finishing from Everton resulted in a loss on the club's belated opening day.

Everton are in action Wednesday night when they take on Sheffield United in the second round of the League Cup.

Wolverhampton 2 - 0 Fulham

Clint Dempsey went the distance Sunday evening as Fulham left their visit to Wolverhampton without any points, getting shut out in a loss to Wolves.

Wolves almost took the lead just prior to the half-hour mark; Kevin Doyle made a nuisance of himself by fighting off Brede Hangeland to win a ball played in over the top into the box where he then found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer. Doyle did well to sidestep Schwarzer but his finish was far from immaculate as he proceeded to lift one over the bar as well as an empty Fulham goal.

Doyle made up for the mistake just before halftime in the 42nd minute. Wolves won a corner and elected to send in a low driven ball. The ball bounced off two Fulham defenders before finding the feet of nearby Doyle who was quick to create a yard of space in the congested penalty area before finally beating Schwarzer with a high blast into the roof of the net.

Fulham had done a decent job of containing Wolves up until the point but the lapse seemed to unhinge the Fulham defense as just three minutes later the home team was at it again.

Steven Hunt played in an early cross that found Roger Johnson whose well-timed header bounced off the far post before landing at the feet of Matthew Jarvis. The midfielder did not squander his freebie as Doyle had done in the first half, instead Jarvis happily finished into the empty net.

Wolves were dominant in the second half and looked likely to score a third on several occasions.

Fulham tried to pull one back late when Andy Johnson combined with a teammate to get free inside the box. His shot was low and hard but was parried away by Wayne Hennessey directly into the path of the always lurking Dempsey who readied himself for an easy tap in but a last minute saving tackle from Steven Ward preserved the Wolves shutout.

Fulham are still in search of their first league win of the season, the club travels to Ukraine on Thursday where they'll partake in the second leg of their Europa League playoff round series with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk before heading to Newcastle the following Sunday.

Middlesbrough 3 - 1 Birmingham City

Jonathan Spector and Birmingham City lost a difficult match up on the road at Middlesbrough on Sunday falling to 18th in the Championship standings.

Spector started and contributed 72 minutes in midfield in his first league start since arriving at Birmingham City.
Birmingham took the lead in the 36th minute on an Adam Rooney penalty after the 23-year-old Ireland Republic striker was brought down in the box by Middlesbrough goalkeeper Carl Ikeme who received a yellow card on the play.

Middlesbrough rallied to score three goals after the break starting with Barry Robson's equalizer in the 48th minute, a low bending free kick from 20-yards out.

Substitute Faris Haroun scored what would prove to be the match winner in the 60th minute, the Belgium international was set up by Joe Bennet who weaved into the box before slipping a clever pass to Haroun through a pair of Birmingham defenders allowing for an easy finish from close range.

Three minutes later it was another substitute, Malaury Martin with the final goal. The midfielder received the ball with some space before cutting inside onto his right foot and unleashing a powerful shot from distance that rocketed into the upper corner.

Birmingham meet again with Portuguese side Nacional Thursday night for the second leg of their Europa League playoff round match up.

Walsall 1 - 1 Yeovil Town

Anton Peterlin and Walsall shared the points with Yeovil Town as the two teams finished level after 90 minutes Saturday night.

Peterlin started and went the distance in midfield, the 24-year-old has quickly become a regular in head coach Dean Smith's starting eleven since joining the club earlier this summer.

Jon Macken opened things up for Walsall with an attractive goal in the 19th minute, a combination of sound collective team play and impressive individual finishing. Will Grigg won possession in the Walsall half and found Claude Gnakpa with a penetrating through-ball; the winger then switched the field finding Macken who scored with a swerving shot that curled just inside the right post.

Four minutes before halftime Yeovil's Gavin Williams equalized after being fed by a Paul Wotton pass which he collected and blasted past Jimmy Walker.

Walsall had several chances to win the game late, substitute Alex Nicholls had a deserving effort stopped by Jed Walker while late game substitute Ryan Jarvis almost scored with a late volley that went wide.

Walsall drop to 14th in the League One standings with the result, the club next travels to take on AFC Bournemouth.


Brad Friedel could be in the nets for Tottenham on Monday night when they visit reigning champions Manchester United.

Zak Whitbread did not make the gameday 18 due to a slight injury, and watched from the stands as ten-man Norwich allowed Stoke an equalizer deep into injury time in Saturday's 1-1 draw.

Brad Guzan made the bench but did not see action in Aston Villa's convincing 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. Eric Lichaj did not make the match day 18.

Robbie Findley came on as part of a double halftime double-substitution in Nottingham Forest's 2-2 draw with Leicester.

Mike Grella was not in uniform on Saturday for Leeds United's 2-2 draw at home against West Ham.

Ipswich reserve keeper Cody Cropper was not in uniform and can fortunately accept no part of the blame for the team's 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Petersborough on Saturday.

Jemal Johnson came on in the 77th minute of Southend United's 0-1 loss at home to Burton Albion.

Jon-Paul Pittman was an unused substitute for Oxford United on Saturday as they went on the road to beat Swindon 2-1.