Barry put a superior Everton ahead with a long-range strike after 23 minutes at Goodison Park before Mirallas doubled the lead from a free-kick just before the hour. It was only in the latter stages that Norwich finally started to trouble the home defence but Robert Snodgrass’ header against the post was the closest they came. Superb goals from Gareth Barry and Kevin Mirallas saw Everton outclass Norwich to reclaim a place in the Barclays Premier League top four with a 2-0 win. Everton boss Roberto Martinez may have concerns about how his side’s concentration wandered towards the end but victory wrapped up a fine day for the Toffees. It began with them completing the signing of former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady from Spartak Moscow and ended with them climbing back above Liverpool into the Champions League positions. McGeady was paraded on the pitch prior to kick-off and the positive atmosphere on a day already dedicated to junior fans put a spring in Everton’s step. Among the initiatives for children were a separate edition of the programme and youngsters shadowing club staff, including the stadium announcer and – before the action began – manager Roberto Martinez. On the field, Romelu Lukaku drove forward early on and shot wide before glancing a header the wrong side of the post. Tim Howard came out to deny Gary Hooper as Norwich struggled to make inroads and Mirallas saw a long-range effort deflected over. Leighton Baines also missed the target from distance but there was no denying Barry as he struck from 20 yards. The on-loan Manchester City midfielder was given space to take aim as he pushed forward and he sent a powerful shot swerving into the top corner beyond John Ruddy. Norwich almost responded quickly as Ricky van Wolfswinkel, making his first league start since October, raced through and combined with Snodgrass. He found space to shoot from distance but Howard produced a fine save to deny the Dutchman a first goal since the reverse fixture between the same clubs on the opening day of the season. It proved a rare attack for the Canaries as Everton lifted the tempo, with Leon Osman earning applause from Martinez as he chased back to win possession. That sparked another break but Seamus Coleman was unable to drive home his sixth goal in 10 games when the ball made it way to him inside the box. Barry got into shooting range again but this time the ball was fed to Osman, whose effort was deflected behind. Everton perhaps lost a little focus in the latter stages of the first half but Norwich were unable to make the most of some possession and set-pieces. The pace eased off at the start of second period but Everton’s superiority was not diminished and it seemed only a matter of time before they increased their lead. James McCarthy took aim from outside the area after being teed up by Mirallas but it was deflected for another corner. Norwich did muster a chance for Van Wolfswinkel but he blazed well over. The second goal arrived just before the hour after a driving run by Baines was crudely halted by Ryan Bennett on the edge of the area. Mirallas was given the honours and curled a fine shot over the wall that beat Ruddy at his near post. Lukaku thought he had added a third soon after sweeping past Ruddy and bundling the ball in from a tight angle but the flag had long been raised for offside. The Canaries struggled to gain any meaningful possession but substitute Nathan Redmond gave them a flash of hope when he beat Coleman on the left and forced Howard to save with his feet. Encouraged, Bradley Johnson then drove forward to lash one into the side-netting. Everton’s forgotten man John Heitinga, who recently snubbed a move to West Ham, came off the bench as Martinez attempted to tighten up at the back. Yet Norwich appeared to be growing in confidence and Snodgrass saw a header rebound off the post from a Redmond cross. It proved the last meaningful opportunity as Everton dug in to secure three points. Press Association
JEFF SCHORFHEIDE/Herald photoWhen the Wisconsin women’s hockey team won the national championship last season, it marked one of the finest seasons that the program had ever seen. It was the first time a team outside of Minnesota’s borders had won the national championship, in addition to head coach Mark Johnson receiving Coach of the Year honors and Sara Bauer being named Player of the Year. All of that happened in just one season. And now the Badgers have the opportunity to do it all again.The Badgers are just two victories away from another national title this weekend, as Wisconsin will take on St. Lawrence Friday in Lake Placid, N.Y. The winner will then take on either Minnesota-Duluth or Boston College in the national championship game Sunday.Sandwiched in the middle of the two games is the Patty Kazmaier Award presentation, which recognizes the best player in the country. UW senior forward Bauer, the reigning Kazmaier winner, is one of three finalists. Bauer, who has 66 points on the season, would become the first player to win the award in back-to-back seasons.While Wisconsin (34-1-4) has plenty going in its favor this weekend, the Badgers come off a tiring quadruple-overtime 1-0 victory over Harvard in the quarterfinals.”It was very difficult to stay in the game,” sophomore goalie Jessie Vetter said after last weekend’s game, which lasted 120 minutes. “It was hard for both teams to stay in it, but it was a really fun game, and we’re just glad that we came out with the win.”Whether Vetter or senior Christine Dufour starts, Wisconsin will have to look out for St. Lawrence’s leading scorer, junior forward Sabrina Harbec. She has racked up 70 points so far this season, good for second most in the nation. On top of that, the Saints are coming off a big upset from last weekend when they topped New Hampshire 6-2, and the team will certainly be playing with some confidence. “Right now, I don’t think there are really any concerns about St. Lawrence,” team captain Bobbi-Jo Slusar said. “Playing our game and recognizing situations on the ice and doing things [are what] we need to do.”However, history hasn’t exactly been on the SLU’s side. This will be the fourth consecutive year St. Lawrence has made it to the Frozen Four, but the Saints haven’t been able to make it past the semifinal game.”Their defense is very strong, and their forwards on the powerplay can do a lot of good things,” Slusar said. “But five-on-five is going to be important for us.”While many are looking for the UW women’s hockey team to defend its national title this weekend, the Badgers aren’t looking past the first game one bit.”I don’t think [we’ve thought about the second game],” Slusar said. “Right now, we’re concentrating on the first game against St. Lawrence.”It’s going to be a tough battle.”
McAlister Field is a welcome venue this weekend for the road-weary USC women’s soccer team.After successful consecutive road trips, the Women of Troy will host the Trojan Invitational, which invites three teams—No. 25 Auburn (4-1), Northern Arizona (0-2-2) and Cal State Fullerton (2-2)—to Los Angeles. Continuing their string of nonconference play, the Women of Troy will butt heads with another nationally ranked team, Auburn, Friday at 3:30 p.m. After a one-day respite, the tournament will conclude with a 1:30 p.m. matchup against Northern Arizona (0-2-2) on Sunday.Standing tall · Junior midfielder Carly Butcher and the Women of Troy will return home this weekend for the first time in three weeks, as USC hosts the Trojan Invitational. – Daily Trojan file photo Despite the recent encouraging road trips, a theme evident in this week’s practices was the need to shoot purposefully and aim for corners. Offensively challenged so far in the early going, the Women of Troy have yet to score more than one goal in any game, and imprecise shooting has foiled many of their scoring chances.To help the team visualize its shooting targets, coach Ali Khosroshahin stacked three hula hoops vertically on each side of the net during practice, ensuring that all four corners of the net were highlighted for oncoming attackers.“We need to keep taking care of the ball,” Khosroshahin said. “We were better than we were all year [in that regard] this last weekend. However, the final third part of the field still needs work.”The fact that the Women of Troy are finally approaching full health bodes well for the rest of the season, especially since they have weathered injuries to key contributors, most notably leading scorer Ashli Sandoval. Unfortunately, as the team continues to welcome back more players from the injured reserve, it lost junior defender Chelsea Buehning for the season to an ACL injury, for which she underwent surgery this past Wednesday.Although the Women of Troy have yet to earn a top-25 ranking since the first weekend of the season, they are not overly concerned. Instead, they are using this opening deluge of nonconference games to prepare for a challenging conference schedule — a point at which one game can define a season.“I think it’s good to play all of these games before we start our Pac-10 schedule because it gives us time to work on things,” Butcher said. “We want to get that No. 1 seed in the Pac-10 [postseason] tournament.”Khosroshahin was more non-committal in his response—adhering to his philosophy of just focusing on his team.“That’s just the way it’s done,” he said.Combined with their usually stalwart defensive effort, the Women of Troy plan to put up some crooked numbers this weekend on the McAlister Field scoreboard. If their dormant offense erupts, they will begin to draw the attention of more national poll voters and even the attention of those Pac-10 teams that are discounting the unranked Women of Troy as a serious threat.