Premier League Team of the Week

February 15, 2009
By Chris Murphy
(Archive)

After the flamboyant Mark Schwarzer flew the nest in the summer, Brad Jones can now rightfully call himself 'Top Aussie' in the Middlesbrough dressing room. He's also Boro's current stopper and at Upton Park he repelled a Hammers side high on confidence who peppered his goal early on. His best save, if not the most spectacular, came when he palmed away a Mark Noble shot after being wrong footed by a deflection off Emanuel Pogatetz.

Hermann Hreidarsson, Glen Johnson
GettyImages / JoePeplerHreidarsson and Johnson were superb

The only reason Jones' display didn't carry his side safely into the quarter finals was the pacy Herita Ilunga. The Congo defender has settled well in Premier League, missing only one game this season and consistently provides attacking menace down the left flank. Ilunga clearly likes the world's best cup competition too as he followed his goal against Barnsley in round three with a late leveller on Saturday.

When Paul Hart kicked back with a glass of red on Friday night and dreamed of leading his Portsmouth side to victory over Manchester City he probably didn't envisage full backs Glen Johnson and Hermann Hreidarsson popping up with the goals. The right-back broke the deadlock after a mazy run and a deadly finish, while the left-back rose highest to power a Jermaine Pennant corner into the net and secure Pompey's first Premier League win since late November.

The first thing Ray Wilkins did when handed the reins post-Scolari, was field Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba in the same team and hand Michael Mancienne his debut. Both turned out to be shrewd decisions, as the 21-year-old had an assured game at the back and both strikers looked potent. In the end, Anelka gets the nod above a rejuvenated Drogba for a hat-trick of clinical finishes.

Stewart Downing fluttered his eyelids at Harry Redknapp and Spurs during the transfer window but was shoved firmly back in his box by Gareth Southgate who is as convinced as the rest of us that the winger will be key to Middlesbrough chances of survival, or success in the cup. Deployed in a central role at Upton Park Downing was the game's stand out player, linking play well, beating players and always carrying a goal threat from distance. It was from a lot closer in, however, that he put the Boro in front nodding home a Gary O'Neil cross.

David Cotterill drew praise from both managers after giving Andy Dawson the run-around as Sheffield United took on Hull at Bramall Lane. Not only did he look threatening whenever he got the ball, looking to take on his full-back at every opportunity, but he had the end product when he got the chance to cross, as illustrated by his centres for South Yorkshire's all-action hero Greg Halford's goal, and two more excellent chances for Danny Webber and Stephen Quinn.

Arno Gunnarsson
Empics / MikeEgertonGunnarsson grabbed the goal of the weekend

Goal of the weekend surely goes to Coventry midfielder Aron Gunnarsson. At Ewood Park the Icelandic midfielder sparked the Championship side into life with a stunning solo effort from the edge of the area. If his first touch was delicate, his second was thunderous, as he lashed a half volley into the roof of the net. Quite apart from his stunning goal, Gunnarsson had an excellent all-round game.

It must be demoralising for Manchester United's rivals to not only see them splash millions on the likes of Dimitar Berbatov but also blood youngsters like Rafael, Danny Welbeck and Darron Gibson. The 21-year-old midfielder looked calm and assured lining up in the centre of midfield with Darren Fletcher, and grabbed his second FA Cup goal this season with a precise finish after Ronaldo's free kick ricocheted off the wall. A bright future is widely predicted.

Much noise has been made of Jason Scotland's form as Swansea continue their steady rise up the nation's pecking order. Mark Gower and Leon Britton also had superb games, but it was the big lad up front who provided the park of magic they needed to equalise. Turning Aaron Hughes with a deft piece of close control he then rifled the ball into the net to engineer a situation where a Welsh side secured a replay against an English side courtesy of someone called Scotland.

As for our gaffer it has to be Paul Hart. Fair enough he did have ideal opponents in the form of a limp Manchester City side, but he managed to cobble together some pride and self-belief from a squad who have been playing with none for the last three months. He may well not get a chance to extend his 100% record, but if Pompey do now stay up (as they should) he can claim credit for sparking the revival.