Sunday, January 18, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: January 19, 10:44 AM UK
Premier League Team of the Week
Old Father Time has not been unkind to the 38-year-old Portsmouth shot-stopper, once famously dubbed 'Dracula' for his fear of crosses, and he was as good as he's ever been against Tottenham on Sunday, showing no sign of the blunders that once earned him his vampiric nickname. Before his sheet was besmirched by Defoe's unstoppable drive on 70 minutes, the big man made a string of excellent stops, notably readjusting himself superbly to block Lennon's deflected drive, then immediately providing a near-assist with a throw that started the move that led to David Nugent's excellent goal 19 seconds later.
Passing a late fitness test to make the kick-off, 21-year-old Evans did a more than admirable job of filling in for the absent Rio Ferdinand. It is a compliment of the highest order to say that Ferdinand, who has not played for United since before Christmas after a back injury, has scarcely been missed. To be part of a defence that on Saturday equalled Chelsea's 10-game clean-sheet run at such a young age is all the more impressive.
For 88 minutes, the Senegalese worked tirelessly and successfully to protect his goal, and if he had managed to get his header from a corner on target after three minutes, Chelsea might have had an even steeper mountain to climb. Luckily, the heartbreak at losing the points in West London will surely be tempered by his inclusion in the auspicious Soccernet TOTW.
The Blackburn left-back turned in a dominant display of dogged defending, never more so than when he threw himself in front of a Michael Owen drive that looked a dead cert for the back of the net. And all this in front of Fabio Capello as well.
Chris Brunt was giving Gareth Southgate a headache after only four minutes when he drilled low and hard into the bottom corner (despite a hint of offside in the build-up). But it was his sublime ball behind the Boro defence on 67 minutes that earns the midfielder's inclusion in our line-up.
The fans might have been singing about want-away striker Craig Bellamy, but if this display by his 20-year-old compatriot is anything to go by, it won't be long before the bubble-blowers have a new Welsh hero. Excellent tackling, vision and distribution mark the youngster out for a starting spot here.
The 28-year-old Slovenian scored one-and-a-half goals at the Hawthorns, as the Baggies sank Boro 3-0. Despite being credited with West Brom's second goal, Koren's first may not have been goalbound before it deflected off the aptly named loan signing Marc-Antoine Fortune, so the Frenchman may ultimately be awarded the strike. There was nothing wrong with Koren's second, though, as he latched on to Chris Brunt's superb through ball to hammer the final nail into Boro's coffin.
Apparently, there's some other midfielder guy whose name is being bandied around with the Eastlands club this week, but we're more interested in Pablo Zabaleta. The Argentine cost City £6million, and we bet he isn't earning £500,000 a week, but he proved he's worth his weight in gold when he struck a fizzing volley into the corner to take the points for the Citizens.
A masterful performance from the 25-year-old, who has now notched nine goals this season. He was alert enough to steal the ball and force the foul that brought West Ham's second goal, and was rewarded with a strike of his own, despatched adroitly, for the Irons' third.
On this showing, any departure of Roque Santa Cruz might not prove the gargantuan calamity some Rovers fans may fear. Roberts and strike partner Benni McCarthy did more than enough for Big Sam to stick two fat fingers up to his former employers, and he will hope his brace gives the gaffer some food for thought when he scribbles down his team in the coming months.
Robin Van Persie
There is a myth among some football fans that on horrible wet, windy January nights at unfashionable grounds, some foreign players go missing. Van Persie was the polar opposite of that stereotype at Hull's KC Stadium, imperiously rallying the troops and playing provider for all three of the Gunners' goals.
Manager: Sam Allardyce -
Well, it couldn't really be anyone else, now could it?