Premier League Team of the Week
What a weekend. Well, Saturday anyway - let's steer clear of the boredom on display at the Reebok on Sunday though Richard 'Own-goal machine' Dunne could have been a comedy choice. Two top versus bottom battles and in each of them the basement boys won out.
Let's start with Stoke City. Many observers had them 'doing a Derby' this season. Yet, while they have found themselves in the lower reaches of the table, they've had their moments. Potters fans will always remember their 2-1 win over Arsenal, who were comprehensively outfought and out-thought by the team under the tutelage of our boss of the week. Step forward, Tony Pulis and take your cap off when you're inside these hallowed halls.
Pulis' famous win can be put down to the unerring endaevour of his men. And, of course, the contribution of the man with the golden arm, Rory Delap, from whom both Stoke goals came. First a looping bomb was launched for Ricardo Fuller to head in past a static Guuners defence and then the second, eventually knocked in by Sevi, was a missile of low trajectory. They all count and Delap's weapon makes him officially the most creative player in the league in terms of assists.
South now to White Hart Lane where our friends at Spurs are continuing their soap opera. Harry Redknapp is yet to burn down the car lot or steal the Christmas club money so viewers will have to be content with another dramatic twist on the football pitch. Ledley King is always towards the fore as a leading man for Spurs and it was he who marshalled the defence as Tottenham held off wave after wave of Liverpool attacks. They miss when he's not there, that's for sure.
Surprise hero is Roman Pavlyuchenko, who now has two goals for his new club. On as a half-time sub, he grabbed the late goal with an incisive finish as Darren Bent directed the ball to him. How did Harry get the best out of Russian emigre? Well, he told his interpreter to tell him to "just f**king run about". It worked and maybe Roman might stop telling his mum he hates London now.
Two sulks enter the fray now. First we take Manchester United icon Cristiano Ronaldo, looking back to something approaching form with another brace of goals against plucky Hull. First was a well-struck and directed shot that slipped past Boaz Myhill to open the scoring at Old Trafford. Second was a header, which though fortuitously bouncing off Paul McShane showed his belief in getting stuck in. And was that a smile when he scored. It might just have been.
On to the sulker's sulker. Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka grabbed a hat-trick which may not make high marks for artistic impression but nevertheless, the man with the spirit of a Parisian Bojangles, was on deadly form with three strikes from within the six-yard box as Sunderland were dumped 5-0.
Most of Anelka's bullets were supplied by Joe Cole, who was in wonderful form, tearing Roy Keane's men a new one and confirming his return to form after injury.
Hull nearly pulled off another of those results they've become notorious for in pulling back United to 4-3 and making it a nervy last ten minutes in M6. On as a sub, Bernard Mendy had much to do with it, seizing on a mistake from Patrice Evra to get Hull back to 4-2 and generally being a pest as United tried to hold off the Tigers. He won the penalty that made it 4-3 too.
Keith Andrews is a rarity in the modern English game; a player who has made a switch from the lower divisions and has found his feet. Once Paul Ince's skipper at MK Dons, he is now with the self-styled Guvnor at Ewood Park. A lovely strike from the Irishman, a late developer at 28, won Rovers a point at West Brom.
In replacing long-serving Mark Schwarzer at Middlesbrough, Ross Turnbull has considerable boots and gloves to fill. The local lad was the man who kept West Ham at bay for long period and gave his team the platform from which Mido was able to grab a late leveller. A pair of great saves in injury time from Lee Bowyer and Jack Collison kept that point too.
Two defenders complete our line-up. And one of them is a rare member of the TOTW elite. Yes, Titus Bramble, is the man to man the defence. Giving a display for Wigan that will have had the onlooking Tony Adams both admiring and angry that his Portsmouth team were being denied, Bramble used his bulk to stop in-form Jermain Defoe getting into the game - which doesn't happen too much at the moment - if Tony Adams deigns to pick his best player.
Everton used to be known for having a good defence. Until this season. Yet the Toffees have collected two clean sheets in a row. And Phil Jagielka has had a lot to do with that. The former Blade was able to use his pace to hold off the strong running of former club-mate Andy 'AJ' Johnson and give the Toffees the chance to get a win, which they duly did through a Louis Saha winner.