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Oct 31, 2010

Team of the Week

Pepe Reina had probably braced himself for a fairly hefty workload as Liverpool entertained the champions at Anfield on Sunday, but for 45 minutes he hardly had a kick of the ball as the hosts overran their illustrious opponents. The second half was a different matter however, as Reina made smart saves from Yuri Zhirkov and Nicolas Anelka, and a superb point blank stop from Florent Malouda.

That Reina didn't have more to do was largely thanks to a typically terrier like performance from Jamie Carragher. The veteran defender was solid in the first half but stepped up in the second as Didier Drogba engaged him in battle. The pick of Carragher's interventions came after Reina had diverted Anelka's shot on the bar, as the squeaky Scouser somehow managed to prevent Drogba from tapping home. He was rewarded for his trouble with a hug from the striker.

A frustrating afternoon for Fulham had a happy ending thanks to Brede Hangeland. The Norwegian was reliably neat and tidy in everything he did in defence and just as he did against Manchester United earlier this season, proved that he carries a potent goal threat at the other end too. His glancing header rescued a point for the Cottagers.

Another goalscoring defender completes our back three, as Gretar Steinsson gets the nod for his fantastic strike against a Tottenham side who suffered the ultimate Euro hangover. The right back was dogged in defence up against man of the moment, Gareth Bale, and fired home an excellent second goal with an angled drive past Heurelho Gomes.

Any side that has designs on victory at the Emirates needs a midfielder who can break up Arsenal's fluid, attacking style and in Chiek Tiote, Newcastle had just the man. The Ivorian ensured Cesc Fabregas' influence on the game was limited and excelled in hovering up loose balls in front of Newcastle's back four. Given his excellent early season form, he looks a shrewd bit of business from Chris Hughton.

If it hadn't been for Park Ji-Sung, Manchester United would have been beaten at home by Wolves. Luckily for Sir Alex Ferguson, the South Korean showed a previously unseen killer instinct by slotting two precise shots into the corner of the net after driving into the box. The importance of Park's injury-time winner was elevated after Chelsea's capitulation at Liverpool.

Wigan will be sick of the sight of Morten Gamst Pedersen after the winger netted his first goal for Blackburn Rovers since their 2-1 win over the Latics back in January. He sent them on their way to another 2-1 win on Saturday, with an inch-perfect free kick that sailed over Ali Al Habsi and into the top corner. Whether he meant it or not is open to question, but what is not in doubt is the quality of the strike.

Manchester City's win at West Brom showcased the best and worst of Mario Balotelli. The striker registered his first Premier League goals at the Hawthorns, finishing off Carlos Tevez's cross from close range before planting a precise shot past Scott Carson six minutes later. A hat-trick was on the cards until he appeared to flick a boot in Youssouf Mulumbu's face and got his marching orders.

Andy Carroll seems intent on claiming headlines on the front and back of the newspapers and having achieved the former on Sunday morning, he'll no doubt complete a clean sweep on Monday after his header handed Newcastle a famous win over Arsenal. Quite apart from his prodigious leap to beat Lukasz Fabianski to Joey Barton's free kick, Carroll turned in an excellent all round performance in front of the watching Fabio Capello.

After last week's derby mauling Sunderland had promised their disgruntled fans they'd bounce back in style against Stoke, and they did due to two goals from record signing Asamoah Gyan. The Ghana striker potted from close range early on after Nedum Onuoha's shot had been saved, before sealing the game late on with a crisp strike from inside the area. He showed fleet of foot in his celebration too.

After a few rotten days in the early stages of the season, Liverpool's fine victory over Chelsea brought with it a sight that will soothe minds on Merseyside as Fernando Torres gave notice of a return to form. The Spaniard looked far less laboured than in recent weeks and demonstrated his finishing remains exemplary when given the right service. His opener came after a neat piece of control and angled finish, his seconds a superb solo effort, capped with a fine curling strike into the corner past a motionless Petr Cech.

Roy Hodgson deserves a mention in dispatches after Liverpool's victory over the champions but Chris Hughton takes the spoils after he masterminded Newcastle's first ever win at the Emirates. Sending out a compact but potent team, he got his tactics spot on, closing Arsenal down in midfield and exploiting Andy Carroll's aerial prowess at every opportunity. The former Spurs defender will surely be able to drive a hard bargain whenever Mike Ashley finally gets round to offering him a new contract.

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