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Horncastle: The end of the "Rafalution"?

Serie A about an hour ago
Read
Apr 22, 2012

Team of the Week

Paddy Kenny's penalty area was peppered by Tottenham on Saturday evening but one of the Premier League's more rotund characters did not buckle or wilt in the face of a relentless wave of pressure. He made solid, if unspectacular, saves from Jermain Defoe, Rafael Van der Vaart and Giovani Dos Santos, but his command of the area was formidable, catching, punching and parrying as if his life depended on it.

In front of Kenny, Anton Ferdinand was immaculate in defence. In what became a massive rearguard action in the second half, he and Clint Hill were robust and resolute when faced with wave after wave of Tottenham attacks. The Loftus Road pitch is small, but Ferdinand's positioning was faultless as he got his head, knee, foot and chest on practically any ball that landed in his penalty area.

His centre-half partner in TOTW, Jonas Olsson, is also well versed in onslaughts after Liverpool unloaded 30 shots on the Baggies' goal. He dealt admirably with the twin threat of Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll, showing the grit and gristle we have come to expect of the Swede. Quite apart from his vital late block on a goal-bound Carroll shot, Olsson typified the fight West Brom displayed all afternoon in recording an historic win.

With all the glittering attacking talents on display, perhaps it came as a surprise the architect of Manchester City's opener at Molineux was Gael Clichy. The full-back nutmegged Michael Kightly before laying on a pinpoint ball for Sergio Aguero, who duly made it 1-0. His assist capped a fine performance; probing down the left and minimising the threat posed by the lively Kightly.

Clichy and Ryan Bertrand will have to fight it out for the left-back slot, after the youngster had a fine game at the Emirates. Up against a quick and in-form Theo Walcott, Bertrand stood tall in the face of one of the top flight's fastest wingers. Slotting in alongside Barcelona nullifiers, John Terry and Gary Cahill, Bertrand looked assured at both ends of the field, demonstrating the club have a natural successor to Ashley Cole.

Key to West Brom's first win at Anfield in 45 years was Northern Ireland's Chris Brunt. His cultured left boot caused Liverpool problems at set pieces, and he almost broke the deadlock with a fierce volley from range. He proved useful at the other end too as he blocked a Jay Spearing shot on the line, to secure a slice of redemption for Roy Hodgson back at the club who sacked him.

Some of Newcastle's more attacking players may have stolen most of the headlines this season, but underpinning their success has been Yohan Cabaye, who looks an absolute snip at £4.5 million. The former Lille midfielder was handed licence to get forward against Stoke and made the most if it, nodding home after Papiss Cisse's header came back off the bar, then setting the striker up for the second with a sublime through ball. And to top it off, he grabbed another late on with a precise curling shot.

A team with Junior Hoilett in their ranks is always likely to score goals and Blackburn's step towards survival on Saturday was largely thanks to another enterprising display from the Canadian. He had already threatened the Canaries' net several times before he fired in a contender for goal of the season. Fully 30 yards out he lashed a shot into the top corner to seal a crucial three points for Rovers.

All of our front three excelled in the thrilling 4-4 draw between Everton and Manchester United. Wayne Rooney scored twice but Danny Welbeck outshone his strike partner with a fantastic display. He scored a spectacular individual goal, curling a shot into the top corner, and set up two further goals with inch perfect passes: a coming of age display from a young forward with a very bright future ahead of him.

Sadly for Welbeck and Rooney, Everton's front two were equally devastating. Playing in an advanced role, Marouane Fellaini was unplayable at times. Imperious in the air, he scored a superb goal, volleying home a Tony Hibbert cross, disrupted Ferdinand and Evans as Nikica Jelavic scored the Toffees' third, before a cute turn and pass laid on the equaliser for Steven Pienaar.

As for Jelavic, he is proving to be one of the best buys in the history of the January transfer window. He opened the scoring with a glorious header from a tight angle that flew over David De Gea before nestling in the far corner, and his instinctive finish on the half volley to bring the score back to 4-3 showed all predatory instincts required to become a success at Premier League level.

There is only man to lead our pack, and that is Roy Hodgson. Afforded a warm reception on his return to Anfield, the veteran coach then aggrieved Liverpool's fans further by marching away with three points. It was a classic smash-and-grab raid, with the Baggies clinging on at times, long before Peter Odemwingie grabbed their winner 15 minutes from time. After all the travails he suffered at Anfield, this victory will mean the world to Hodgson, who has as many wins at Liverpool's famous old ground to his name in 2012 as Kenny Dalglish.

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