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Dec 6, 2009

Team of the Week

Another crucial penalty save, another week as No.1 in ESPN Soccernet's Team of the Week for Manchester City stopper Shay Given. The Irishman turned in yet another sparkling performance in nets for the planet's richest club. And quite apart from saving Frank Lampard's penalty, Given repelled a string of Didier Drogba efforts. He was mighty unlucky to concede anything at all, given Emmanuel Adebayor's ham-fisted loitering.

The fact that Seamus Coleman came on for his home debut after 15 minutes of Everton's game with Spurs and walked off the field 75 later as man-of-the-match is made all the more impressive when you consider his first ever appearance for the club came in a 5-0 pasting at Benfica. But if the 21-year-old had any nerves he kept them well hidden, after launching countless industrious forays down the right flank. He created the first goal for Louis Saha, after nipping past Gareth Bale, and had a hand in the second after floating in a cross that eventually found its way to Tim Cahill via Leighton Baines.

Jody Craddock is now out on his own as Wolves' leading scorer after bagging his fourth of the season against hapless Bolton. We'll conveniently ignore the fact he was a yard offside from the freekick and proceed swiftly on to saluting his fierce finish into the roof of the net. Craddock more than pulled his weight at the back too, as the Lancashire Wanderers desperately threw the kitchen sink at their Midlands counterparts in the closing stages.

Another defender enjoying a purple patch in front of goal is Aston Villa's Richard Dunne. He added to his strikes against Manchester City and Chelsea with another at home, surely the finest of the lot. After accepting a superb ball from James Milner inside the area he lashed a shot into the net off the underside of the bar, and kept a clean sheet to boot.

Completing our ageing hat-trick at the back is Hermamn Hreidarsson - another goalscoring, thirty-something defender. In truth, Pompey were lucky to keep a clean sheet against Burnley but the veteran Icelandic left-back was a revelation at the other end of the field. After winning a very debatable first half penalty for his side - which Aruna Dindane duly squandered - Hreidarsson then took matters into his own hands, burying a low shot into the corner after Kanu's neat flick.

Martin O'Neill spent Saturday night talking up James Milner's England chances after he starred in the middle of the park against Hull. We've already mentioned his sublime ball for Villa's opener, and he scored the second himself, with a precise lob over Tigers keeper Matt Duke, who had criminally strayed towards the touchline. South Africa surely beckons for the versatile youngster.

If ever there was proof you can force your way into TOTW by virtue of two rather tasty kicks of a football this it. Step forward Sebastian Larsson, who curled two superb free-kicks into the net against Wigan and helped Birmingham to their third away win of the season.

Nigel De Jong had a big role to play in Manchester City's assault on league leaders Chelsea and he did it with his usual brand of snarling tenacity. Constantly harrying the likes of Lampard, Essien and Ballack he allowed City's ball players to probe Chelsea's back line and claim a deserved three points.

Manchester United may have a defensive crisis to deal with but they have no such worries in midfield when they can call on Paul Scholes. Alongside Ryan Giggs and Anderson, the 35-year-old ran the Hammers ragged and capped a fine performance with a stinging, left-footed half-volley to give his side the lead.

Arsene Wenger reckons he may have stumbled on the perfect solution to his injury crisis up front after Andrei Arshavin starred against Stoke. Word has it the little man isn't a big fan of plying his trade up top but after an all-action shift against the Potters, in which he won a penalty and grabbed a well-taken goal, he may find himself reprising the role on a regular basis.

The last of our City triumvirate is Carlos Tevez. The Argentine always offers 100% commitment, and Saturday's tea-time clash at Eastlands was no different. A constant link between midfield and attack, Tevez was tidy in possession and snappy out of it. And, of course, it was his free-kick that secured all three points.

Alex McLeish came within a whisker of the award but given that three of his players made the starting XI, snubbing City boss Mark Hughes would just be churlish. After that frustrating run of draws, especially at home, the visit of Chelsea had many predicting a point would be as much as his side could hope for, but they ground out a cherished win, despite going a goal behind early on, to offer some breathing space for Sparky. For a week at least.

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