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Nov 14, 2010

Team of the Week

He may have been denied a clean sheet at the death by Tim Cahill but prior to that Arsenal's Lukasz Fabianski put in a fine shift at Goodison Park. The Pole has taken plenty of flak this season but proved he's a mean shot stopper as he produced magnificent saves from Jermaine Beckford, Steven Pienaar and Louis Saha to ensure Arsenal secured a big three points.

It may come as something of a surprise considering the quality of Bacary Sagna's finish at Goodison Park that it was only the defender's second ever goal for Arsenal. As he strode onto Andrei Arshavin's ball, the Frenchman smashed a rapier-like shot into the roof of the net. He also defended his flank stoutly.

If only every professional footballer was like Aaron Hughes, that clean living, likeable chap who marshals Fulham's defence with the minimum of fuss and is often overshadowed by his centre half partner Brede Hangeland. Back on his old stomping ground at St James' Park, Hughes had a fine game, snuffing out the threat of Andy Carroll and ensuring a clean sheet for the Cottagers.

Birmingham's trip to Eastlands was always going to provide their defence with a stiff test but Blues passed with flying colours. Manchester City may have had 24 attempts on goal, but thanks to the efforts of Stephen Carr and his colleagues, Alex McLeish's men emerged unscathed with a valuable point. The veteran right back's best moment came when he hacked James Milner's shot off the line.

A superb Sunderland performance at Chelsea was sparked by a fine opening goal for Nedum Onuoha. The on-loan defender chalked up his early contender for goal of the season with a mazy, Messi-like dribble through the heart of Chelsea's defence before scuffing a shot past Petr Cech. He was solid at the back too, as the champions wilted at the Bridge.

Despite his stellar performances on the European stage, Gareth Bale had gone ten Premier League games without a goal, and had yet to register a domestic assist before the visit of Blackburn. But it took him just 16 minutes to find the net against Rovers, as he nodded in Rafael van der Vaart's corner. He then broke his assist duck with a pinpoint cross for Roman Pavlyuchenko before slotting his second of the afternoon.

Bolton's fine win at Wolves owed much to their American starlet in midfield, Stuart Holden. After a solid start to the season, Holden had his best game of the campaign at Molineux, as he teed up Johan Elmander for the Trotters' second goal, before securing one of his own after a neat one-two with Lee Chung-Yong.

An energetic Aston Villa display was typified by Ashley Young's industrious, dangerous performance against Manchester United. The England winger was a constant threat, winning and converting the penalty that put Gerard Houllier's team 1-0 up, before playing in Stewart Downing to cross for Marc Albrighton to make it 2-0 four minutes later.

Another of Sunderland's heroes in their stupendous win at Chelsea was Jordan Henderson. Less than 24 hours after he was included in Fabio Capello's England squad, the 20-year-old gave a performance that belied his tender years, as he and Lee Cattermole snapped into every Blue shirt in their vicinity. Henderson capped his quality display with an intelligent run and pass for Asamoah Gyan to notch the Black Cats' second.

Chelsea just couldn't live with Gyan and his strike partner Danny Welbeck. Had they been more composed in front of goal in the first half the game could have been over before the break. Both were neat in possession, repeatedly turned Chelsea's demoralised defenders inside out, and linked play with their supporting midfielders brilliantly. Welbeck sealed his perfect day with a tap in after Ashley Cole's errant pass.

In a weekend of quality goals, Johan Elmander can perhaps lay claim to the best. Rejuvenated since Owen Coyle took over at Bolton, the big striker showed exquisite close control inside a crowded penalty area to spin on the ball, shift it to his right foot before planting a precise shot inside Marcus Hahnemann's far post. Quite simply, a stunning goal.

No doubt about our gaffer of the week after Steve Bruce masterminded the shock result of the season so far. Sunderland outclassed, out passed and outmanoeuvred the English champions with a near flawless display at Stamford Bridge, scoring three goals and never looking in any danger at the back. It was the perfect way to appease those supporters who were mortified by their derby humiliation against Newcastle a few weeks back.

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