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Sep 27, 2009

Team of the Week

He may sound like an extra from The Godfather but (Don) Vito Mannone is gradually stepping out of the shadows to make a name for himself at Arsenal. In a far from convincing Gunners display at Fulham, Mannone kept his side in the game with some vital stops, none more impressive than his double save from Andy Johnson and Clint Dempsey.

Johnny Heitinga must think the Premier League is a tough old nut if Portsmouth are its worst side. The Dutchman slotted in at right back for the visit to Fratton Park and lofted a neat ball over the top for Louis Saha to put the Toffees in front. Then it was backs-to-the-wall time as Everton took a battering in the second half. Heitinga can be more than satisfied with his part in their eventual clean sheet.

Kicking off our brace of goalscoring defenders is Blackburn's Christopher Samba. The Congolese was employed as a striker by Sam "Daredevil" Allardyce for a run of games last season and he clearly hasn't forgotten how to find the onion bag. Samba's smart volley put Rovers on level terms against Villa, a game they went on to win.

Titus Bramble is next up, for his role in Wigan's first ever win over top four opposition in the Premier League. The big man had one of those days when he can't be distracted by random thoughts, like whether he locked the front door that morning. Rising deliciously to nod the Latics in front, Titus then formed an imperious double act (minus one minor blemish) with Emmerson Boyce to repel whatever Chelsea could throw at them.

It's not often Frank Lampard is overshadowed by a midfield opponent, even in Chelsea's big European games, but Mohamed Diame managed it at the DW Stadium. The youngster arrived with concerns about a heart problem but after 90-minutes of tireless running, tackling and general excellence maybe those have finally been put to bed.

Jermaine Jenas has a similar engine, and he showed against Burnley that he is keen to stake his claim to Fabio Capello for 2010. A deflected drive and a good shift in the centre of the park showed why he has been kept on by Harry Redknapp when it looked like he might move to Aston Villa over the summer.

Chung-yong Lee hasn't started a game for Bolton yet but if he keeps having the same impact as he did at St Andrews on Saturday it won't be long before he gets the nod. He had already gone close before Matt Taylor's post-rattling free kick fell to him. Lee's deft flick totally wrong footed Hart and two defenders, allowing the Korean to stroke the ball home in his own time and win the game.

Time to cut and paste our trusty Ryan Giggs tribute for the third week running. The old stager's supreme form shows no sign of abating after he came on to win the game for Manchester United at Stoke. His stealthy run into space on the left flank was followed by a simple cross for Dimitar Berbatov to notch the first, before his pinpoint centre allowed O'Shea to seal the game. Same time next week Ryan?

Yossi Benayoun's keen eye for a pass was demonstrated fully at Anfield but the star of the show was unquestionably Fernando Torres, who ran Hull City even more ragged than usual. He gave Ibrahima Sonko a torrid time, twisting and turning and notching a quite brilliant hat-trick.

Harry Redknapp's decision to persist with Robbie Keane against Burnley drew some criticism from those shy, retiring Tottenham's fans, who were keen for Peter Crouch to play given his hat-trick in midweek. But what a response from the Irishman; first he notched a penalty, then three fine goals from open play that underlined there is nothing wrong with his finishing but plenty to put right in Burnley's defence.

Kenwyne Jones has been operating largely in Darren Bent's shadow for much of this season but, after a tense negotiation following Sunderland's second penalty award against Wolves, that wrong was righted. Bent allowed Jones to take the pen and the Trinidadian was up and running. So much so that he then collected a pass from Bent and shimmied round a defender before firing a precise low shot inside the far corner.

It took 35 games but finally, Roberto Martinez ended the hoodoo and proudly procured three points from one of the Premier League's big boys. The Latics gave no indication of the great feat ahead after they were pummelled at Arsenal the week before but a typically in-your-face showing threw Chelsea off their continental stride. Every man gave everything and the Blues were sent packing.

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