Manchester United’s 1-0 victory at Portsmouth earlier this afternoon concluded the second round of fixtures in the Premiership. It would be foolish to read too much into the standings at this point in this season, but it’s still interesting to see the likes of Hull City and Newcastle near the top of the table while Portsmouth and Tottenham are languishing at the other end.
This weekend was full of unexpected results and exciting finishes, from Steven Gerrard’s 94th-minute curling effort to beat Middlesbrough to Mamady Sidibe’s late header for Stoke City in their victory over Aston Villa. Fulham triumphed over Arsenal for only the second time in 16 meetings. Sunderland went to White Hart Lane and upset Tottenham — a result that I told you to watch out for in my post on Friday night.
Here are the weekend’s standouts, with the number in parentheses next to their name representing how many points they have in my personal competition. Remember, a player gets 10 points for being an All-Star, 15 for being the Player of the Week.
GK: Petr Cech (Chelsea) (10) — Made five saves to earn the shutout in Chelsea’s 1-0 victory at Wigan. These weren’t just run-of-the-mill, low-difficulty saves either — the Czech goalkeeper was sent sprawling in both directions to come up with his stops.
CB: Brede Hangeland (Fulham) (10) — Hangeland’s first goal for Fulham since joining the club last January turned out to be the winner against Arsenal, a game that ended 1-0. As a center back, Hangeland’s main responsibility is to prevent the opponent from scoring, which he did, and it’s not often that Arsenal fails to do so. Hangeland’s goal was a huge bonus added on to his solid performance in defense.
CB: Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) (10) — United’s win was mentioned earlier and it wasn’t as close as the final scoreline would indicate, especially in the second half. Portsmouth generated absolutely nothing going forward, with Vidi? the main reason why. He was United’s rock at the heart of the defense, shedding blood (literally) for the cause.
CB: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool) (10) — He was turned around a couple times early in the game (though neither mistake cost Liverpool on the scoreboard) but his fluke equalizer was a reward for his otherwise outstanding, if underappreciated, play. Gerrard won it at the death but without Carragher holding the back four together, the captain’s goal wouldn’t have mattered.
RMF: Stephen Ireland (Manchester City) (10) — Had the assist on both of Elano’s goals in City’s comfortable 3-0 home win over West Ham. Forced Callum Davenport to clear the ball off the line with a shot in the 13th minute. You wouldn’t know he’s a central midfielder by trade based on his performance — his crossing was great and he was able to get up and down the flank almost at will.
DMF: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City) (10) — Made his City debut in style, picking up the Man of the Match award for his spectacular effort. Started out in the holding role, but moved to center back when Micah Richards had to be taken off on a stretcher with a head injury barely into the second half. West Ham didn’t record an official shot on goal.
CMF: Darren Fletcher (Manchester United) (10) — Fletcher’s second goal in two games, United’s only two tallies of the season, was all the Red Devils needed today. The Scottish international certainly wasn’t flashy, but he and Paul Scholes pulled the strings in a midfield that led United to 64% of the possession, an extremely high figure for any Premiership game, much less an away fixture.
AMF: Elano (Manchester City) — Two goals, two cool finishes from the Brazilian.
LMF: Kieran Richardson (Sunderland) (10) — Fantastic strike gave the Black Cats a 1-0 lead over Spurs in the second half. Sunderland eventually won the game 2-1, and Richardson looked great on the left wing.
ST: Michael Owen (Newcastle) (10) — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Owen came off the bench in the 53rd minute, had a close-range header saved, then buried one from an almost-identical setup barely a quarter of an hour after he’d entered. Those were Newcastle’s only two shots on goal, but they beat Bolton 1-0 anyway.
ST: Ricardo Fuller (Stoke City) (10) — This guy scrapped and scrapped all game before being subbed out in the 87th minute. Made a beautiful turn around Martin Laursen and finished the play with a great goal from a bad angle to put Stoke up 2-1 at the time.
Player of the Week: Elano (15)