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Monday, May 16, 2011
EUROPE: Edu wins a title, Kljestan doesn't

By Scott French

Fontana's Maurice Edu is celebrating a championship. Huntington Beach's Sacha Kljestan is ruing what might have been.


Edu and Rangers FC clinched the Scottish Premier League title Sunday, routing Kilmarnock, 5-1, to finish one point ahead of Celtic in one of the most dramatic finishes between the Glaswegian archrivals.

Kljestan and RSC Anderlecht, in control when Belgium's playoff round began in early April, was eliminated from the Jupiler League title chase with another loss to Standard Liege.

Both teams were defending champions and title favorites this season, but Rangers (30-5-3) put together a far stronger finish to claim its 54th Scottish top-tier championship.

“It's been a long season for the club. We've had a lot to deal with, but we've dug deep and got some great results in difficult circumstances,” Edu, a U.S. national-teamer who played a prominent role in Rangers' midfield, told the club's website. “Now we have the chance to celebrate the success that we worked so hard for. … We're enjoying it now because it's three in a row [for the club], and we're not going to get too ahead of ourselves, but we definitely want to come back and make it four in a row.”

Rangers finished with a 10-game unbeaten streak -- nine wins and a scoreless draw with Celtic -- to nudge out their hated rival in an emotional race that saw a return of Sectarian  violence in the form of mail bombs, a mailed bullet and other death threats to Celtic manager Neil Lennon.

The teams battled all season, meeting seven times -- including the League Cup final (won by Rangers) and in the fifth round of the Scottish Cup (Celtic) -- and the campaign swung on Celtic's shock loss almost two weeks ago to Inverness Caledonian Thistle.

That gave Rangers the tools, and the Blues wrapped with emphatic victories over Hearts, Dundee United and Kilmarnock.

The championship wraps legendary Rangers manager Walter Smith's career. He won 10 league titles and 21 trophies in two stints with the club.

“It's definitely a special one,” Edu said. “First and foremost, it's the gaffer's last year, and we wanted to make it a special one for him and send him off on a good note. Leaving with two medals, I'm sure, will make him happy. We would have loved a treble, but he'll be delighted with another league medal.”

IN BELGIUM: Anderlecht (22-7-10) headed to Belgium's six-team, 10-game playoff round atop the standings, but Standard Liege (23-11-5) and Racing Genk (25-7-7) have been superior at the finish and will meet Tuesday for the title.

Kljestan has had a meandering season for Anderlecht, which he joined last summer from Chivas USA, but he's been at his most influential in the closing weeks and nearly netted the equalizer in Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Standard, which eliminated Les Mauves. A draw would not have been enough for the Brussels-based club.

Anderlecht is 3-4-2 in the playoff-round matches, starting with successve losses to Standard and at FC Brugge. It has won just once in its past four games. Standard, which is ahead of Racing on goal difference, is 8-0-1 in the playoff round. Teams enter the playoff phase with half the points won in the 30-game regular season.

Anderlecht, which will finish third, closes its season Tuesday against Lokeren.

ETC.: Irvine's Matt Taylor and Rot Weiss Ahlen survived to play another season in Germany's third division, finishing two points above the relegation zone despite closing with a 2-0 loss at Hansa Rostock. Both teams that could have caught Rot Weiss were beaten in their finales, too. Taylor finished the season with 17 goals in 30 games. … Aston Villa also has survived, clinching a spot above the drop in England's Premier League with a 2-1 win at Arsenal. Former UCLA star Brad Friedel made five saves, two big ones on Robin van Persie, and lost a shutout to van Persie in the 89th minute. … Michael Bradley, the son of Manhattan Beach-based U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley, saw the field for the first time since March 2, coming on in the 80th minute for Aston Villa. He had missed eight straight games -- didn't even suit up for four of them -- and has played only three of 13 first-team games since joining the Birmingham club at the end of January.

D CARLOS BOCANEGRA (Alta Loma/UCLA)
Club:
Saint-Etienne (France, Ligue 1)
Last week: 90 minutes at left back, twice, as Les Verts (12-12-12) fell back to ninth place with 2-1 losses Tuesday vs. Lille and Sunday vs. Stade Rennes
Season: 32 league games (32 starts) with 2 goals, 34 games (34 starts) with 2 goals in all competitions
Next: Saturday at sixth-place Sochaux (15-3-7)

M MICHAEL BRADLEY (Manhattan Beach)
Club:
Aston Villa (England, Premier League)
Last week: 80th-minute substitute as the 13th-place Villans (11-14-12) won, 2-0, Sunday at Arsenal
Season: 2 league games (0 start), 3 games (1 start) in all competitions for Aston Villa; 22 games (20 starts) with 4 goals for Borussia Moenchengladbach (Germany)
Next: Sunday vs. sixth-place Liverpool (17-13-7)

M MAURICE EDU (Fontana)
Club:
Rangers FC (Scotland, Premier League)
Last week: 90 minutes, twice, as the Blues (30-5-3) won, 2-0, Tuesday vs. Dundee United and clinched the league title with a 5-1 win Sunday at Kilmarnock
Season: 33 league games (27 starts) with 2 goals, 47 games (40 starts) with 5 goals in all competitions
Next: Season over

G BRAD FRIEDEL (Bay Village, Ohio/UCLA)
Club:
Aston Villa (England, Premier Division)
Last week: 90 minutes with 5 saves as the Villans (11-14-12) climbed to 13th with a 2-0 win Sunday at Arsenal
Season: 37 league games (37 starts), 60 goals allowed, 110 saves, 6 shutouts; 42 games (42 starts), 72 goals allowed, 129 saves, 6 shutouts in all competitions
Next: Sunday vs. sixth-place Liverpool (17-13-7)

M SACHA KLJESTAN (Huntington Beach)
Club:
RSC Anderlecht (Belgium, Jupiler League)
Last week: 90 minutes, twice, as third-place Les Mauves (22-7-10) won, 4-1, Wednesday vs. KAA Gent, then lost, 2-1, Saturday at Standard Liege, eliminating them from the title race
Season: 24 league games (19 starts) with 2 goals, 32 games (27 starts) with 3 goals in all competitions
Next: Tuesday vs. sixth-place Lokeren (13-12-14)

F YURA MOVSISYAN (Pasadena/Pasadena City College)
Club:
FC Krasnodar (Russia, Russian Premier League)
Last week: 56th-minute sub as the ninth-place Bulls (2-2-5) drew, 2-2, Saturday vs. FK Tom' Tomsk
Season: 4 league games (0 starts) with 1 goal, 5 games (0 starts) with 1 goal in all competitions for Krasnodar; 25 games (20 starts) with 14 goals for Randers (Denmark)
Next: Saturday at sixth-place Spartak Moscow (4-4-1)

F MATT TAYLOR (Irvine/UCLA)
Club:
Rot Weiss Ahlen (Germany, 3. Bundesliga)
Last week: 90 minutes as Rot Weiss (11-18-9) finished 17th, above the relegation zone, following a 2-0 loss Saturday at Hansa Rostock
Season: 30 league games (30 starts) with 17 goals, 31 games (31 starts) with 17 goals in all competitions
Next: Season over

F BOBBY WOOD (Irvine)
Club:
TSV 1860 Munich (Germany, 2. Bundesliga)
Last week: Did not dress, because of an ankle injury, as the Lions (14-10-10) dropped to 10th with a 3-2 loss Sunday at Paderborn 07
Season: 5 league games (0 starts), 23 games (14 starts) with 7 goals with all 1860 sides
Next: Season over