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Sunday, December 2, 2012
Team of the Week

Chris Murphy

It was seemingly written in the stars. After riding to QPR's rescue, Harry Redknapp would build on the midweek draw at Sunderland by breezing past Aston Villa in his first game in charge at Loftus Road, setting Rangers on the long road to redemption. No-one told Brad Guzan. The big American goalkeeper spoiled Harry's afternoon with a series of important saves, none more so than from two one-on-one situations, as he thwarted Shaun Wright-Phillips and Ji-Sung Park. Swansea trumped Arsenal at their own game on Saturday, giving rise to a wave of vitriol from the Emirates' faithful. The Gunners struggled consistently down their left flank, largely due to the intelligent probing runs of Angel Rangel. Twice in five seconds he was denied an opener by Wojciech Szczesny in the first half, and he more than played his part in a famous away win for Michael Laudrup's men. Not a bad week for Stoke City all in all. Three wins in a week has propelled them above Arsenal in the table, with only one goal conceded during the last seven days. Ryan Shawcross epitomises the pluck and determination Tony Pulis' outfit possess and he was titanic once again during a tricky trip to West Brom. Shackling Shane Long and Romelu Lukaku with relative ease, Shawcross and centre-back partner Robert Huth were at their merciless best. Scouser and lifelong Liverpool fan Rickie Lambert was chomping at the bit to make an impact back at Anfield, playing for the first time there since he was a 10-year-old schoolboy. The trouble was, Daniel Agger is no man for sentiment and he restricted Southampton's hitman to efforts from range. The Dane showed he knows how to finish too, expertly flicking a winning header into the net from Glen Johnson's cross. There was plenty of disruption in Jan Vertonghen's afternoon at Craven Cottage, as first Michael Dawson hobbled off with injury, then his (supposedly) protective winger Gareth Bale followed suit. But as he has done for most of his first season in English football, the Belgian took it in his stride. As versatile as they come, Vertonghen played his part in nullifying the threat posed by a lively Fulham side. There is little doubt the half-time introduction of Mohamed Diame was a masterstroke from Sam Allardyce. Chelsea had been dominating, and led at the interval, but after it the midfielder grabbed the game by its halterneck and drove West Ham on to a famous victory. When Diame wasn't harrying round the midfield, pressing previously untroubled Chelsea players, he was linking play and getting forward. He scored the Hammers' second, powering home from the edge of the box, before forcing Ashley Cole into a mistake that led to the settling third. In the goalfest at the Madejski Stadium, Hal Robson-Kanu not only gave Reading the lead but also gave Patrice Evra notice that he's got his work cut out to keep up with the youthful wingers of today's Premier League. Rifling home a neat volley to open the scoring, Robson-Kanu was a perpetual threat down the Royals' right, taking on Evra time and time again, and consistently delivering quality into the penalty area. Even in a quiet second half, most of Reading's attacking purchase came down his side. Manchester City were the latest team to come up short when trying to limit the influence of Everton powerhouse Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian notched his eighth goal of the season, forcing the ball home with his thigh after Joe Hart had parried his header. City's 'keeper had to repel another Fellaini header before the break, but only after the 25-year-old had blotted his copybook by handing City a penalty. Strong as ever, he provided the out ball in a second half the home side dominated. Another chap who just can't stop scoring is surely the bargain buy of the summer - Michu. Swansea had to wait to seize the moment away to Arsenal, but when their opportunities arrived, Michael Laudrup will have been delighted they fell to such a cool customer. On both occasions the Spaniard had time to think about his finishes, and on both occasions they nestled in exactly the part of net he intended. Jermain Defoe matched Michu's brace and now sits just one back in the Golden Boot charts. He'd had a quiet game up until the 70th minute, overshadowed perhaps by former team-mate Dimitar Berbatov, like he was for so much of his first stint at Spurs. Both his goals were an example of positioning and timing, loitering unmarked to sweep Gylfi Sigurdsson's cut back to register his first before a fine run and touch allowed him to stroke the ball into the far corner to seal a 3-0 victory. Sir Alex Ferguson said he had faith Wayne Rooney would soon end his goal drought and he was right. In fact, in the opening 35 minutes at the Madejski, pretty much anyone who wanted a goal could have had one. Rooney helped himself to two, one from the spot, and one from close range as he timed his run perfectly to polish off a cross from Patrice Evra. An expert flick also set one up for Robin van Persie and, as ever, the striker was more than willing to track back, offering some much needed protection to his faltering back four. Michael Laudrup might well be open to more accusations of arrogance after learning of his Manager of the Week accolade. Swansea out-Arsenal-ed Arsenal on Saturday, as their fluent style led to countless incisive openings, far more than their stifled hosts. Two fine goals from Michu and a solid all round performance offered further evidence the Great Dane is poised not only to match the success of his predecessor, but eclipse it.

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