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Howard's study of penalties pays off

TIM Howard showed the value of study on Sunday in leading Everton into the FA Cup final with two penalty shootout saves against his former team Manchester United.

The American goalkeeper saved penalties from Dimitar Berbatov and Rio Ferdinand after spending two days this week with Everton coaching staff analyzing the penalty technique of United's players.

While United's Ben Foster watched Tottenham players on an iPod screen immediately before saving a kick in last month's League Cup final win at the same stadium, Howard said Everton was able to show him any of United's players' penalties from about the past eight years.

"Technology is crazy," Howard said. "Obviously it wasn't perfect. I mean, I went the wrong way on two of them, but it helps."

Howard said Everton's research for Sunday's kicks was so exhaustive that he might even have guessed right if one of the reserve players United fielded had stepped up to the penalty spot. Though he was modest enough to admit that not all the research was his own.

"Someone over there might have had a clue," Howard said, gesturing toward the Everton team bus. "But you know what? I didn't."

The best of his saves was his first, when he waited upright in the middle of the goal as Berbatov jogged up for his kick. The delay in moving was long enough for Howard to make a simple adjustment to his left to block the Bulgaria striker's languid shot down the middle of the goal.

"I tried to be patient, which is really hard in that position because the goal is gaping," Howard said. "I thought he likes to go right. Did I put him off? I'm not sure, but I know he's one of the shooters who likes to wait (for the goalkeeper to move)."

The May 30 final could now be Howard's chance to shine on the big stage. Howard joined Everton on loan before a transfer for about 3 million pounds (US$4.4 million).


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