Team of the Week
|Liam Ridgewell||Zat Knight|
|Stilian Petrov||Steve Sidwell|
|Chris Sutton||Andrew Cole|
'World-class' is not generally a word bandied about loosely with regard to Sheffield United players but this description of Paddy Kenny from his manager Neil Warnock is entirely appropriate after the Irish keeper produced two outstanding saves to salvage a point for the Blades against Bolton and keep them out of the drop zone.
Liam Ridgewell was the pick of an Aston Villa defense that was deprived of the services of Martin Laursen and Aaron Hughes for their tricky away match at Everton. Ridgewell marshalled Martin O'Neill's makeshift back four who doggedly withstood Everton's attacks to secure Villa's first away win of the season.
Kolo Toure helped secure three points for Arsenal with the Gunners second goal of the game to put the smile back on Arsene Wenger's face. Toure raced through the middle of the Liverpool defence and delivered a passable imitation of Thierry Henry with a finish that went through an embarrassed Reina's legs. Toure helped frustrate the visitors at the other end of the pitch too and Liverpool were unable to breach the Arsenal back four.
Zat Knight got on the scoresheet at Fratton Park and was part of the Fulham back four who were kept busy all afternoon by a lively Portsmouth side. Knight showed his mis-firing stikers how to do it when he struck home Claus Jensen's corner to give Fulham the lead against the run of play, a goal which earned his side a point.
Stilian Petrov gave a typically industrious performance in the Aston Villa midfield as the ex-Celtic man showed once more what an important acquisition he has been for Martin O'Neill's side. The ex-Bulgaria captain twice came close to opening his Aston Villa account and was only denied by some fine goalkeeping from Tim Howard.
Cristiano Ronaldo proved he has the stomach for the fight when Manchester United came to a rain-lashed Ewood Park and the Portuguese produced some exquisite wing play on a sodden pitch. United took all three points and, with Rooney out of sorts, Ronaldo provided much of their attacking thrust. His talent, that had previously merely decorated games, has now become one of the core factors in United's impressive resurgence.
Steve Sidwell - bagged Reading's second goal in their 3-1 win over Tottenham on Sunday when the ex-Arsenal man gambled on the ball arriving in the right place to get on the end of a cross from the left and put Reading in front. Sidwell was able to take advantage of some poor Spurs defending and his goal seemed to break what resolve Spurs could muster on the day.
Alexander Hleb's run and pass to start the move for Arsenal's first goal embodied all of the classy footballing characteristics that the Gunners are renowned for. Hleb cut inside from the right, beat his man and delivered a perfect slide rule pass for Cesc Fabregas to set up Flamini in the six yard box.
Chris Sutton scored his first goal for Aston Villa at Goodison Park to get the Martin O'Neill revolution back on track and secure an impressive win for the Midlanders. The veteran striker rose to bury a trademark header past Tim Howard after good work from Isaiah Osborne. 'He can only get better', said O'Neill of the 33 year old.
Didier Drogba's second hat-trick of the season puts him at the top of the Premiership goal-scoring charts. The Ivorian's goals swept aside Watford as Chelsea cruised to a ploddingly predictable win, but Drogba's strikes were dispatched with the élan of someone playing with the utmost confidence. He even had the decency to set one up for Andriy Shevcheko.
Andrew Cole is still banging them in and the well-travelled striker rescued a point for Portsmouth against his old team Fulham. The veteran Pompey man rose from the bench and knocked in the equaliser on a day when Antti Niemi had been frustrating Harry Redknapp's other strikers with a string of outstanding saves.
Manager of the week is Martin O'Neill. The Ulsterman's ability to lift his players and get the best out of them is one of the facets of his managerial style that made him so highly sort after during his time out of the game. Following recent heavy defeats to Liverpool and Chelsea, O'Neill was able to drag a performance from his team that pushed them in to the top three and it was one of his signings, Chris Sutton, that delivered the killer goal. Champions League? Stranger things have happened.