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Midfield void haunts Everton


Team of the Week

Joe Hart may have cemented his place as England's No. 1 but the race for No. 2 and No.3 is well and truly on. Chucking his hat in the ring is Birmingham City's Ben Foster, who had a stormer against Blackburn. His penalty save from Morten Gamst Pedersen was brilliant, not to mention vital, as he got fingertips to a powerful strike from 12 yards. Soon after, he then denied Nikola Kalinic with a superb, one-handed stop.

• Premier League Gallery

Last time he turned out in the Premier League, Newcastle left-back Jose Enrique looked well out of his depth, but after a sparkling season in the Championship, the man they call 'the bull' looks a different player. The Spaniard dealt comfortably with the dual threat of Marc Albrighton and Ashley Young, and was a menace at the other end with his attacking prowess and inviting delivery, as demonstrated by his deep cross for the Magpies' second goal.

Brede Hangeland was superb against Manchester United but for five minutes late in the game it looked as if his own goal would consign Fulham to defeat. Imagine his joy then, when he rose to nod Damien Duff's last minute corner into the net to grab a point for his side. It capped a typically tenacious display from the Norwegian centre-half, who was dominant in the air and displayed an excellent reading of the game for all but a split second of the match.

After conceding six at Stamford Bridge last week, West Brom bounced back with a clean sheet and three points to boot. Instrumental in their win was the rather feisty Jonas Olsson, who is never shy to have a rant at a referee, or throw his body into harm's way for the sake of his team-mates. The Swede gave Fraizer Campbell and Darren Bent short shrift at The Hawthorns, and ensured Peter Odemwingie's debut goal proved to be a winner.

Theo Walcott taught Blackpool a lesson one feels they may have to endure a few times this season, as Ian Holloway's men were ripped apart by the winger's pace and fleet of foot. It took just 12 minutes for Walcott to make his mark on the game, tucking home Andrei Arshavin's pass, before he twisted and turned in the area to fire home his second 20 minutes later. The goal to complete his hat-trick outshone the first two, as he danced into the area before slotting a controlled shot into the corner of the net.

Birmingham were labouring to defeat against Birmingham, despite the heroics of the aforementioned Ben Foster, before Craig Gardner grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck. He turned home James McFadden's superb pass to equalise, then thumped in a winner from distance when given time and space to line one up.

Gareth Bale's two goals against Stoke were the footballing definition of beauty and the beast. His first was from the Javier Hernandez school of finishing, as the Welshman got his face in the way of Ryan Shawcross' clearance before he struck an early contender for goal of the season, by volleying Aaron Lennon's cross into the top corner from a tight angle. Quite simply, a delightful finish.

Completing a midfield line-up heavy on goals and with the emphasis firmly on attack is Kevin Nolan, who hit back at those who labelled him too slow to prosper in the top flight with a two-goal display in Newcastle's crushing of Villa. Operating just behind Carroll, he snaffled his two goals in predatory fashion, turning home the striker's knock down at the second attempt for his opener, then hooking a loose ball home from close range after a corner.

Chelsea completed another predictable rout of Wigan Athletic, who have now shipped ten goals at home in two games. He may not have scored but Didier Drogba was far and away the game's best player. After teeing Nicolas Anelka up for his second goal with a volleyed cut back, he then showed searing pace to streak clear of Wigan's defence before unselfishly feeding Salomon Kalou to tap home. Soon after he was at it again, with a pinpoint cross for Kalou to notch his brace.

Andy Carroll announced his arrival in the Premier League with a hat-trick in Newcastle's romp over Villa. The local lad celebrated his first home start in the famous No. 9 shirt with three excellent strikes, and an assist for good measure. His first was a reaction thump after Richard Dunne's poor clearance, followed by a powerful volley from inside the area, topped off with a cool finish when through one-on-one.

Johan Elmander only managed three goals in the whole of last season, but he's just one away from matching that target after two games of the new campaign. Perhaps he should have done, after spurning a glorious early chance, before making amends with a superb downward header from Chung-Yong-Lee's cross, then slamming home a loose ball to secure victory late in the game.

Aside from a few optimistic Birmingham fans, who'd have thought Newcastle's home game with Aston Villa would yield the third 6-0 drubbing of the weekend? As it turned out, Newcastle's first home game back in the top flight was a perfect afternoon for manager Chris Hughton. His captain scored twice, his new No. 9 got a hat-trick and his defence (despite the odd first-half wobble) kept a clean sheet. Perhaps Kevin MacDonald should ask him a thing or two about making the successful leap from caretaker to permanent gaffer.


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