Premier League Team of the Week
Not a great day for the Premier League goalkeeping fraternity (step forward Heurelho Gomes and Thomas Sorensen) but Robert Green's performance in the West Ham goal was the standout of their match against Portsmouth. Ex-Hammers man Jermain Defoe was thrice denied by the former Norwich keeper whose performance gave West Ham their first clean sheet since February. Happy Days.
Titus Bramble (stop laughing at the back) was a much maligned figure during his Newcastle days. But anyone with a sense for the underdog will appreciate the poetic justice of a man who has experienced so many footballing lows rising highest at St James' Park to knock in a last gasp equaliser which earned ten-man Wigan a thoroughly deserved point and went some way to eradicating the keen sense of wrong felt by the Latics after Emerson Boyce's dismissal.
Curtis Davies has had a week to remember what with becoming a father for the first time and being called in to the England squad by Fabio Capello following a superlative run of form in the Villa defence. Davies put in another great shift for Martin O'Neill's team at the Emirates succeeding where United failed last week in snuffing out the Gunners threat and bleeding, literally, for the Villa cause at a ground where he sustained a serious achilles injury back in March.
Chelsea's Jose Bosingwa's stylish and capable manner since joining Chelsea means he is unlikely to ever endure the sort of barbs Bramble has had to cope with. The Portuguese will, however, perhaps be irritated to read criticism of Scott Carson after the full-back's quite outrageous goal. Who watching the game expected Bosingwa to cut in from the right and hit an unstoppable ball past Carson with his left peg? Perhaps only the Chelsea man saw a possibility which was exploited ruthlessly.
At the KC, Stephen Ireland managed to stifle the gleeful laughter he was doubtless trying hard to suppress as Kamil Zayatte absentmindedly strolled in to his path 12 yards from goal, kindly presenting him with both the ball and a chance to score he could not pass up. His second was a fine piece of individual skill as he received Javier Garrido's pass with a clutch of Hull defenders surrounding him and delicately placed a curling shot past Boaz Myhill. His overall game throughout was superb.
Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard got on the scoresheet again but, as always with Gerrard, there was so much more to his game. He helped support Robbie Keane as the Irishman performed the lone striker role, covered ground all over the pitch, performed a neat cutback for Dirk Kuyt who hit the bar with his shot and then threw himself at substitute Fernando Torres' sweet flicked cross to get on the scoresheet himself.
Team-mate Dirk Kuyt's ever-growing influence in this Liverpool side was underlined by another important goal in the potentially tricky trip to Bolton. Kuyt came close when he rattled the Bolton woodwork but five minutes later his looping header found it's way the right side of the crossbar after a nice ball in from Fabio Aurelio. The quality of the finish stood out in a game of glaring misses and Keane was a prime culprit, missing from four yards after good work from Kuyt.
Cristiano Ronaldo, perhaps predictably, hit his 100th goal for Manchester United at Old Trafford against Stoke City. A swirling free-kick which dipped in mid-air, the flight of the ball seemed to take Sorensen by surprise. The Stoke keeper will be glad to see the back of Ronaldo until the Boxing Day return match as the Portuguese went close with another free-kick before adding his 101st United goal with a third free-kick late in the game.
Nicolas Anelka is the form striker in the Premier League at the minute and his two goals at West Brom were carried off with the effortless confidence of a player at the top of his game. First he knocked one over Scott Carson and then hit one around him after an energetic burst from midfield by Salomon Kalou set him up nicely. Didier Drogba may have to kick his heels on the bench a while longer.
Villa's youthful English contingent made a huge nuisance of themselves at the Emirates on Saturday and Arsenal just could not live with the pace of Ashley Young and Gabriel Agbonlahor. A good day for the rampaging pair was suitably rewarded with an England call-up later on Saturday evening.
Young won, and missed, the first-half penalty that the injured Gareth Barry was unable to take but he did not let this put him off his game. He went close with a couple of efforts and his cross from the left, combined with the close attentions of Agbonlahor, flustered Gael Clichy in to conceding an own goal for the first.
Agbonlahor himself then showed great power to hold off Arsenal skipper William Gallas and, with plenty to be done, raced away from him and bore down on Manuel Almunia in the Arsenal goal. His decisive goal was a deftly struck hammer blow which chimed sweetly for Martin O'Neill.
And the Ulsterman himself is the manager of the week after that result. The scoreline was not an accurate reflection of his side's dominance against an Arsenal team whose frustrating inconsistency will surely put pay to their title aspirations. Their real battle now is probably for the fourth spot that O'Neill's Villa side are so hungrily chasing and this game underlined Villa's Champions League credentials boldly.