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Oct 18, 2009

Team of the Week

Had it not been for a late Diniyar Bilyaletdinov equaliser, Wolves would have been celebrating a win at Goodison Park, with goalkeeper Wayne Hennesey the man to thank. Not only did the young Wales stopper twice thwart Louis Saha and save a point-blank Tim Cahill effort, he also had an assist to his name after his long-ball released Kevin Doyle for Wolves' goal.

That's two goals in as many games now for Richard Dunne. First it was former club City and this time Chelsea were on the receiving end of the centre-back's fearsome aerial prowess. There were no silent celebrations on this occasion as Villa took all three points.

A second Villa defender in this week's team is James Collins. Well, it's not every day you score the winner against Chelsea is it? A first goal for his new club and his centre-back partnership with Dunne is blossoming more with every 90 minutes that passes. It seems a shame to break them up at such an early stage in their relationship, so they both get the nod.

He may not be able to train, or play more than one game a week, but Ledley King proved again what an asset he is to Spurs. A hamstring injury had ruled the influential defender out since September 20 but he celebrated a return to first-team action by dispatching a powerful header past David James in Spurs' 2-1 victory at Pompey.

One of the more understated of the summer transfers was Lee Cattermole's move to Sunderland to be re-united with Steve Bruce. Since returning to his native north-east, Cattermole has been rock-solid and he turned in another typically robust performance, dominating against a Liverpool midfield with a big Steven Gerrard-shaped hole in the middle. He was taken off injured but received a standing ovation from the home supporters.

Blackburn's David Dunn was the only Lancashire-born player on show for Sam Allardyce's men and he took the local derby with Burnley by the scruff of the neck after Rovers went 1-0 down, slotting home the equaliser in his side's 3-2 victory. Dunn knew the importance of the game to fans better than most and impressed throughout with his drive and high work-rate.

Always keen to champion the hard workers, Arsenal's Alex Song gets the nod for a midfield spot after his tireless performance against Birmingham. Strong in the challenge but comfortable with the ball at his feet, the Cameroon international covered every blade of grass and even set up Robin van Persie's opener with a well-spotted through ball.

Fleet-footed Antonio Valencia has flattered to deceive since his expensive arrival at Old Trafford in the summer and it's always going to be hard for the Ecuadorian living in the shadow of a certain free-scoring Mr Ronaldo. But the winger performed admirably against Bolton, impressing with his jinking runs and finally scoring his first goal for the club. Only 24 more needed to equal Ronaldo's tally from last season now.

With the glut of talent at his disposal it had seemed Mark Hughes had forgotten one of the most dangerous left-wingers in the Premier League was at his disposal. Martin Petrov grabbed a rare starting opportunity with both hands and shook it around for good measure, netting with an excellent finish and pointing to his shirt to remind the manager, again, that he can do a job for the star-studded side. His speed to the by-line and crosses also caused Wigan problems all day long.

A brace for Stoke's James Beattie secures his place in this week's top XI and he gets an extra pat on the back for scoring his first goals of the season. A coolly taken penalty and a poacher's finish at the back-post will lift the former England striker's confidence.

So he may have had a little help from an inflatable friend, but let's not take anything away from Sunderland's Darren Bent . A well struck goal was credited to him and that's the fifth successive game he's scored in, bringing his total for the season to eight. A constant thorn in the Liverpool side, he has shown he can do it without help too. Are you watching Mr Capello?

Manager of the week was a close run thing with Steve Bruce certainly staking a claim as his ever-improving Sunderland side put another dent in Liverpool's title ambitions. But it is Martin O'Neill who walks away with this week's prize as his Villa side pulled off a surprise win over a supposedly-resurgent Chelsea. Actually he may have limped away after being clattered by Nicolas Anelka, but the opening day home defeat to Wigan now seems a distant memory now as his side proved once again they can mix it with the big boys.

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