Sunday, March 3, 2013
Team of the Week
It might seem a tad odd that our goalkeeper comes from a team that enjoyed a 4-0 victory at Wigan but in amongst Liverpool's rich attacking display came a series of fine stops from Pepe Reina. The Latics had nearly double the amount of attempts on goal in the game but found the Spaniard back to his best form as he brilliantly repelled efforts from Emerson Boyce and Franco Di Santo. Further stops from a Jean Beausejour free-kick and Shaun Maloney header completed a well-earned clean sheet.
This was quite a north London derby debut from Jan Vertonghen. The Belgian was a colossus at the heart of Tottenham's defence as AVB's outfit had to withstand intense pressure for long spells in both halves. While Arsenal's crossing was atrocious, the ones that did have purpose were invariably snuffed out by Vertonghen, who also made several vital last ditch tackles. He and Dawson defended better than Mertesacker and Vermaelen, and Tottenham duly won the game.
There was a time when Seamus Coleman was the first name on any aspiring fantasy football manager's team sheet, but the Irishman hasn't quite hit the heights expected of him in recent seasons. Yet his performance against Reading was of the quality we have come to expect. Marauding successfully down Reading's right, Coleman set up Everton's opener for Marouane Fellaini and caused Brian McDermott's side problems all afternoon.
There's probably a reason James Collins played so well at Stoke; because he's exactly the type of player you can imagine playing for Stoke. He'd probably give Robert Huth a run for his money in a bare knuckle fight too. As ever, Collins was up for the fight, throwing himself in the way of crosses, shots and strikers as West Ham recorded a valuable clean sheet and earned a 1-0 win courtesy of Jack Collison's winner.
Luis Suarez may have fired the bullets but it was young Brazilian Philippe Coutinho who loaded the gun for Liverpool in the early stages at the DW. The 20-year-old created two decisive openings within 18 minutes as the Reds took a firm grip on the contest. He jinked past Emerson Boyce before a delicate cross found Stewart Downing unmarked, then played a perfectly timed, and weighted, pass into Suarez's feet for the second. A very promising start to life at Anfield.
Merseyside neighbours Everton also had a midfield gem at the spark of their attacking thrusts in the shape of Steven Pienaar. The South African pulled the strings for Everton as they overpowered Reading at Goodison Park. His superb second goal, a fierce left foot strike into the top corner, took the game away from the Royals and his through ball sent Kevin Mirallas away for the killer third.
Not many people had moves like Dejagah this weekend, Ashkan Dejagah that is. Sunderland were powerless to stop the German-born Iranian, who had a hand in both Fulham's goals at the Stadium of Light. First he enticed Craig Gardner into an ungainly tackle inside the area to win a penalty, that Dimitar Berbatov duly converted, then he made an intelligent run on the overlap as Fulham countered, forcing Simon Mignolet into a save that Sascha Riether tapped home.
It's fair to say the jury has been out on Shinji Kagawa but perhaps his virtuoso display against Norwich will silence a few of his doubters. The Japan international forged a devastating partnership with Wayne Rooney as he racked up his first hat-trick in England. His first goal was a neat volley after Robin van Persie's touch but the next two goals were coolness personified as he galloped onto two Rooney passes to slot home clinically. Maybe he'll get another crack at Real Madrid after this showing.
More good news for Sir Alex Ferguson was the sparkling form of Wayne Rooney. Criticised for a lacklustre display at the Bernabeu, the England striker was back to his best against the Canaries. His two assists for Kagawa were sublime and his thunderbolt finish for the fourth and final goal was a joy to behold. Another performance like this on Tuesday and Rooney could well lead his side into the quarter finals of the Champions League and outshine a certain former colleague of his.
If the stories are true, perhaps QPR should go on a bender every week. With rumours circulating that their Dubai trip was nothing more than a week-long party - claims they deny - and Harry Redknapp going back to his old club, what a time it was to pick up their third win of the season. Rangers look a different team with Loic Remy in the side, and the striker has a presence that worries opposition defenders. His goal was well taken and he could hold the key to their survival.
At last, Luis Suarez has a Premier League hat-trick against someone other than Norwich. The Uruguayan pushed through the 20-goal barrier with a treble at Wigan, with two beautifully taken goals sandwiched between one of the scrappier free-kicks you'll see this season. Suarez was typically deadly when fed in by Coutinho for the first, and Glen Johnson for his third, but got a slice of luck when his slip and a deflection took his free kick into the net. He gave Wigan's ragged defence a schooling for the full 90 minutes.
Only a chirpy chappy like Harry Redknapp could come out of a horrible week smiling. With the newspapers full of stories about their trip to Dubai, he walked back into the lion's den at St Mary's and emerged with three precious points that galvanises Rangers' hopes of a great escape and drags Southampton back into danger. Should he keep them up, perhaps Tony Fernandes will take them back to Dubai at the end of the season for a real party.