27 December, 2007

Gameweek 19 – The Footballing Feast of St. Stephen

Happy day-after-Boxing-Day then faithful readers, hopefully Santa brought everyone what they wanted, and being covered in family for three days wasn’t too painful. To help choke down further mouthfuls of Turkey over the Trivial Pursuit board we were treated to a 29 goal-packed Boxing Day, while Arsenal were finally disposed from the top of the tree by Manchester United for the first time since the league table meant anything.

Yesterday saw a contender for game of the season at Stamford Bridge (see extended highlights above) as the Blues shared 8 goals with rising Aston Villa, in a match that contained 3 red cards, 2 penalties and an absolute (Christmas) cracker from the re-born Shevchenko. Elsewhere, Spurs drummed hapless Fulham to continue their ascent to the business end of the table, while wins for Liverpool, Everton and Birmingham also extended their top-notch recent form. Finally, Newcastle suffered yet another defeat, but this time by fellow strugglers Wigan, in a game where they showed literally no evidence that they’d actually ever played the sport before.

Premier League Team of the Week (based on OPTA stats, Fantasypremierleague.com ratings and my own expert eye):

Keeper – Lewis Price (great debut against a determined Liverpool side)

Defence – Ryan Taylor (solid at the back and a fantastic winning freekick), Nicky Shorey (marauding wideplay and excellent delivery throughout), Sol Campbell (heavyweight performance against his old club)

Midfield – Christiano Ronaldo (constant threat with the bag of tricks well and truly open for all to see), Steven Gerrard (single-handedly secured the victory in the dying seconds), Shaun Maloney (great brace topped off an all round decent showing), Tom Huddlestone (pick of the superb Spurs midfield on the day), Tim Cahill (continuing his excellent run of form)

Up Top – Andrei Shevchenko (is he finally back to his Milan best?), Robbie Keane (sublime interplay with Berbatov and two classic poachers goals)

Weekly Awards:

Goal of the Week – Sublime individual skill from STT wet dream Fernando Torres for the opener at Pride Park is in contention, but Ronaldo’s slice of freekick perfection from 25 yards has to take this.

Nutmeg of the Week – The Portuguese sleaze-meister takes this as well for a classic drag and backheel through Paul McShane in the build up to Rooney’s goal at the Stadium of Light.

Save of the Week – The aforementioned Lewis Price seemed to defy the laws of physics to palm Xabi Alonso’s thunderbolt up onto the cross bar late on.

Skill of the Week – Many examples from Mr Ronaldo once again; innumerable stepovers, flicks, pirouettes and backheels to remind everyone how smug he is against the lesser teams.

Gaffe of the Week – A collector’s item this; human brick wall Petr Cech lets a tame Maloney’s finish dribble through his arms to put Chelsea 0 – 2 down in the first half at Stamford Bridge.

Sniper-on-the-roof of the Week – It’s good to see him back but Michael Ballack’s unbalanced topple to win Chelsea’s penalty had bullet in the spinal cord written all over it.

Miss of the Week – Next Big ThingTM Giles Barnes somehow puts a header from two metres out wide of Reina’s goal.

Speculative Effort of the Week – Professional barbequer Mark Viduka tries to work off those Christmas burgers by athletically lobbing Kirkland from outside the penalty box with a bicycle kick.

Nearest Lampard came to Contributing…er, of the Week – It all proved a bit much for Frank yesterday as he decided to give Aston Villa a chance by retiring early in the first half. Was superlative up until then though, touched the ball almost 5 times.

Wrong-Place-Wrong-Time of the Week – Of all the Premier League players you don’t want falling on top of you, part-time stone column Darren Moore has to be up there with van Persie and Jonny Evans. Stephen Pearson obviously came off worse in this encounter and is now nursing a broken arm. Happy Christmas.

Fraggle Rock Character of the Week – The unfortunately named Martin Waghorn made his debut for Sunderland in their raping by Man United.

Return(s) of the Week – Nice to see Ledley King, Damian Duff and Thomas Graveson back in action. Duff perhaps wishes he’d stayed in the treatment room though.

Olympics 2012 Audition of the Week – Joleon Lescott shows another string to his bow by busting some kind of high-jump/scissors kick to clear off the line at Goodison.

Controversy of the Week – I guess it would have to be the last minute penalty at Stamford Bridge given for Ashley Cole handling on the line when it appeared to hit him in the face. Given Chelsea’s own dodgy penalty though, this was probably justice.

Banter of the Week – Both Arsenal and Portsmouth fans at Fratton park singing “England’s Number 1” about their goalkeepers.

ASBO of the Week – Jointly shared by semi-professional pantomime pirate Ricardo Carvalho and Icelandic hardman Brynjar Gunnarsson, who both joined the rapidly-expanding Leg Breakers Inc. To be fair, both have since apologised.

Whinge of the Week – Arsene Wenger cannot stop complaining about Portsmouth: “They played in one half of the pitch. I don't think offensively they had a special performance, they played with 10 players at the back and in the end they got the maximum they could from this kind of game.”

Hero of the Week – Steven Gerrard for the last minute drive that gave Liverpool the win at Pride Park. Running on fumes, the Scouse captain carried the ball more than 50 yards before finishing off expertly in the 94th minute to keep the Reds in touch with the top 3.

Zero of the Week – For not the first time this season it has to be Sam Allerdyce following another indifferent (to say the least) Newcastle performance. With Chelsea and Everton up next in the league, and in-form Championship highflyers Stoke City in the FA Cup, this is going to be the most crucial 10 days of Allerdyce’s career yet…

Personal Highlight of the Week – The countrywide encouragement of fancy dress for all supporters. Kind of made the hooligan fights a bit of a farce though, there’s just something ultimately depressing about glassing someone dressed as Tigger.