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May 10, 2009

Team of the Week

Slightly rotund and Ireland's number seven he may be, but after Dean Kiely's assured, confident and, at times, spectacular performance against Wigan one has to wonder why Tony Mowbray has persisted with Scott Carson for so long. Kiely is the epitome of an honest pro, studiously training and never bleating about being number two to a complete clown. Evidence of the quality he still possesses came in the form of a superb save from Paul Scharner's low shot, then an even better stop with an outstretched leg while he lay prostrate on the ground.

For 28 minutes at the Emirates, Alex and the rest of Chelsea's defenders looked like chumps. Then the big Brazilian rose above Mikael Silvestre to nod a superb header into the net off the underside of the bar and it all became a little easier. So easy in fact, that I'm sure I saw him and John Terry swapping poker tips towards the end of the second half.

Abdoulaye Faye is a smarter cookie than we think. Those who felt he was wrong to swap Newcastle for Stoke in the summer clearly underestimated the no nonsense Senegalese stopper. Against Hull he dealt comfortably with a bombardment of balls into the box, repelled what little in the way of quality the Tigers could throw his way and ensured the Potters have another season of Premier League football to look forward to.

Oft is the occasion that upon glorious recognition by Soccernet's TOTW, a player is spurred on to a higher plain. Step forward Ryan Nelsen who followed up his first goal in Rovers colours against Wigan the other week with another splendid showing against Pompey, the highlight being a goal line clearance after John Utaka has rounded Paul Robinson.

Darren Fletcher may well have got a place in TOTW on sympathy alone, given the scandalous nature of his sending off against Arsenal on Tuesday, but thankfully, he earned his spot with another industrious hard working display against rivals City; just the sort you need in a blood-and-thunder local derby. And just for good measure, he rifled a long ball to Dimitar Berbatov in the build up for Carlos Tevez to net the second.

Liam Lawrence was the driving force behind Stoke's win over cowering Hull, winning and delivering the corner that led to the opening goal. Just when the toothless Tigers had mustered enough spirit to create a few half chances in the second period, Lawrence then smashed an absolute pearler into the top corner, to seal the game and condemn Hull to yet another home defeat.

Florent Malouda was a constant thorn in Arsenal's side as Chelsea condemned the Gunners to a second morale sapping home defeat in five days. He was particularly busy in the last fifteen minutes before half time, testing Lukasz Fabianski himself before setting the equally impressive Nicolas Anelka up for another chance. He got the goal his performance deserved late in the game, tapping home from close range after Anelka's shot cannoned back off the post.

Steven Gerrard secured his inclusion within 57 seconds of Liverpool's trouncing of West Ham, gleefully skipping on to a Fernando Torres through ball and rounding Robert Green. He was a tad fortunate with his second, tapping home after Green had saved his limp penalty, but could count himself unlucky not to round off his hat-trick after numerous efforts on goal.

Carlos Tevez may have bid farewell to Manchester United via the Sunday papers before trotting out to face Manchester City, but he's pretty naïve if he thinks Sir Alex Ferguson will give in to a constant thread of emotional blackmail. Mind you, if he keeps banging in goals of that quality for United, Fergie may have to fold and turn his teary goodbye into a very lucrative hello.

Patchy his form may be at best, even when fully fit, but one wonders if Fulham would already be packing the sun screen and Ukrainian phrasebook into their YSL luggage bags had Diomansy Kamara been fit right from day one. His brace helped to dismiss stuttering Villa at Craven Cottage, and showcased his finishing ability; the first a powerful, angled drive into the corner, the second a delicate flick from close range.

If West Brom manage to pull off The Great Escape: Mark II, Marc-Antoine Fortune will have a big role to play in it. The all-action frontman may not have scored for ten games before his brace against Wigan but if he can string a hot-streak together in the last two all may be forgiven. He played predator for the first, before making space with a neat turn before firing low into the corner for his second, albeit via a slight deflection off Paul Scharner.

How the more pampered of our TOTW line-up will respond to the intense style of management provided by Tony Pulis should provide the odd amusing moment, but after Stoke's hard fought win at Hull City guaranteed their top flight status there is no better candidate for the top job (apart from Guus Hiddink maybe, but we'll ignore him). Written off by many before the season started Stoke have survived largely thanks to solid home form and ugly but uncompromising football. Few Potters fans care though so expect more of the same in 2009-10.

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