Sunday, December 5, 2010
ESPNsoccernet: December 27, 10:36 PM UK
Team of the Week
In a weekend where cold weather put pay to many fixtures across the land including Blackpool's game against Manchester United, at least we had some Premier League action to keep us all warm. After another round of top-division thrills and spills, who makes it into our Team of the Week?
Blackburn's 3-0 win over Wolves may have looked straightforward on paper, but Paul Robinson was made to work very hard to maintain his clean sheet. Robinson has found a new lease of life over the last 18 months, and the former England No. 1 was on top form to frustrate Mick McCarthy's strugglers. His committed and focused performance was summed up in the final minutes of the match when, with the points in the bag, he produced a fantastic save to deny Stephen Hunt a consolation for the visitors.
Manchester City ground out a 1-0 victory of a dogged Bolton on Saturday, but it would have been very different had it not been for Vincent Kompany. With City leading thanks to Carlos Tevez's early strike, the normally reliable Joe Hart allowed the ball to slip from his grasp, forcing Kompany to bail out his goalkeeper and preserve City's lead. The Belgian stopper is a formidable figure and he used every inch of his sizeable frame to ensure three points for the Citizens.
In a poor week for Premier League defenders, Sebastien Bassong gets the nod following his goal-scoring exploits for Spurs in their 1-1 draw with Birmingham at St Andrew's. Bassong's pace is his main asset, but he performed admirably against the Blues' man-mountain striker Nikola Zigic. Harry Redknapp will be hoping Bassong can maintain his form and fitness and help fill the holes left by injured pair Ledley King and Michael Dawson.
Another defender to get himself on the scoresheet was Blackburn centre back Ryan Nelsen, who scored the third and final goal in their routine win over Wolves. The Kiwi scrapper never gives anything less than 100% and he is a force to be reckoned with in both penalty areas. He showed a deft touch as he delicately directed Morten Gamst Pedersen's free-kick past Wayne Hennessey and proved that Rovers have not allowed last week's 7-1 mauling by Manchester United to have a permanent effect.
Everton's point at Stamford Bridge was exactly what they deserved after a battling, attack-minded performance against a faltering Chelsea team. One man who epitomised their full-blooded approach was full back Leighton Baines after he kept Jose Bosingwa occupied all afternoon. He is an expert with his left foot, a point he proved when he whipped in a wonderful deep cross to set up Jermaine Beckford's late equaliser. He was more than competent in defence and limited the effect of the often-frustrating Salomon Kalou.
Tom Cleverley scored Wigan's second equaliser in their 2-2 draw with Stoke City at the DW Stadium and the on-loan Manchester United starlet put in a lively performance. He caused the usually solid Stoke defence a multitude of problems with his pace and ability, cutting inside to find the back of the net via a deflection off the unfortunate Robert Huth. The 21-year-old made a big impact in a spell with Championship team Watford last season and he looks to have a bright future - whether it's at Old Trafford remains to be seen.
Brett Emerton was another star of Blackburn's success over Wolves, producing a disciplined display symptomatic of a well-organised Rovers team. The Australian wide man was able to get himself among the goals, collecting Jason Roberts' lay off and firing a first-time finish past a despairing Hennessey. Good in possession and strong in the tackle, on top form Emerton can be a real asset. Sam Allardyce will challenge the former PSV player to maintain these high standards as Blackburn look to ease relegation fears.
This has been a good year for Sunderland's Jordan Henderson. Having cemented his place in the Black Cat's first team, the attacking midfielder earned his first international cap for England against France in a recent friendly. He was at his best to condemn West Ham to yet another defeat on Sunday, producing a neat finish after Asamoah Gyan had crossed from the right. His lung-busting runs were a constant menace to Avram Grant's beleaguered Hammers and his match-winning goal was just reward for his significant contribution.
Samir Nasri has been in irrepressible form so far this season and his two goals against Fulham were evidence of the confidence and swagger his goal-scoring exploits have given him. He showed pace, power, balance and poise to put Mark Hughes' team to the sword on two separate occasions and left the Cottagers' defence chasing shadows around Emirates Stadium. It seemed as if Nasri was toying with the visitors as he opened the scoring, delaying his finish time and again before finally delivering a powerful finish. His second was equally athletic, swivelling to shoot into an empty net after he appeared to run out of Fulham defenders to beat. With the Frenchman in this form, Arsenal's trophy drought might be set to come to an end.
He might not like football all that much, but he's pretty good at it. Carlos Tevez continues to be the one consistent positive in an otherwise inconsistent Manchester City season, and it was business as usual as he provided the early goal that saw off high-flying Bolton. His gutsy all-action style ensures the opposition defenders are always on their toes and the Eastland's outfit have got their talismanic captain to thank for their lofty league position. His spat with manager Roberto Mancini was an ugly sideshow on an otherwise satisfying day for the Argentine.
West Brom's impressive Premier League return received a welcome boost with their 3-1 triumph over Newcastle on Sunday, with striker Peter Odemwingie providing two of the goals. The Nigeria international has been in fine form since his summer arrival from Russia and his first strike showed he has more than got to grips with the physical aspect of the English game. He held off the challenges of Steven Taylor and Sol Campbell before producing a composed finish to put the game beyond the Toon and wrap up a second consecutive win for the Baggies. His second goal, West Brom's third, was proof of his striker's instinct as he ghosted beyond the comically poor Campbell and Taylor to round Tim Krul and set the seal on a satisfying afternoon for Roberto Di Matteo.
Baggies boss Roberto Di Matteo watched his side brush aside Newcastle United, playing stylish and slick football that belies their newly-promoted status. The pace and power of Peter Odemwingie provided a constant threat to Newcastle and, ably supported by players such as Chris Brunt and Graham Dorrans, they overwhelmed Chris Hughton's men in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.