It was another fantastic weekend of Premier League football, and while the most anticipated fixture of the matchday disappointed, several others more than made up for it in terms of excitement
The latest round of English Premier League fixtures was further evidence of the unpredictability and competitiveness of the league, with Manchester City being the only club in the top five to register a win. The likes of Arsenal FC and Manchester United were held to draws, while Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur played out a goalless draw in a fixture that has traditionally provided plenty of goals.
There was a big win for Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace against his former side, while Everton and Bournemouth played out a Premier League classic, featuring a goal eight minutes into injury time added on at the end of 90 minutes.
Several players stood out over the weekend, including the likes of Jamie Vardy, Kevin De Bruyne and Mesut zil, who each proved themselves to be invaluable to their respective teams once again. From the latest round of the fixtures in the most popular league in the world, here is TheHardTackle team of the week.
Goalkeeper – Costel Pantilimon (Sunderland)
Sunderland have been widely tipped to get relegated this season, and even the arrival of the vastly experienced Sam Allardyce has done little to ease the concerns of the Black Cats. The home win against an in-form Stoke City, then, was absolutely vital for the club, and goalkeeper Costel Pantilimon had a big role to play in it.
The Romanian kept his second clean sheet in a row and was solid throughout, producing a wonderful save to deny Stoke forward Jonathan Walters on one occasion with the scores level at 0-0. Allardyce will be hoping Pantilimon and the defence can continue to provide that solid platform for the team going forward. Indeed, they will have to if the Black Cats want to retain Premier League status.
Defender – Adam Smith (Bournemouth)
Nobody could quite have expected the impact Cherries defender Adam Smith would have after coming on at half time to replace Steve Cook, but with his side 2-0 down in the 80th minute and all but looking defeated, the substitute produced one of the goals of the season, smashing in an outside-of-the-boot effort into the top corner from outside the box.
Smith began the revival for the hosts, and the belief that the goal gave the Bournemouth fans and supporters was tangible. An inspired second-half performance from the 24-year-old Englishman gives him a spot in the team of the week.
Defender – Kurt Zouma (Chelsea FC)
The 21-year-old has developed by leaps and bounds since moving to the club, and has been the first-choice option for Blues’ manager Jos Mourinho this season. Against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, he showed just why.
The Frenchman was imperious at the heart of the visitors’ defence, dealing expertly with the threat posed by Harry Kane, and indeed, that posed by the Spurs midfielders who tried to play passes in behind the defence and into the feet of Kane around the edge of the box. Fans and pundits alike agreed that Zouma and centre-back partner Gary Cahill made sure that the absence of John Terry was not felt, which is the highest praise the pair would have hoped to receive.
Defender – Dejan Lovren (Liverpool FC)
The Liverpool FC centre-back is perhaps a controversial choice, but there is no doubt that the Croatian is one of many who seems to have benefited from a managerial change, growing in confidence in recent games after the injury to Mamadou Sakho.
Lovren was arguably the most impressive of the Reds’ back four on Sunday at Anfield, showing authority when in possession and not putting a foot wrong in a defensive sense. Even though Liverpool faced an out-of-form Swansea, manager JA?rgen Klopp will be extremely satisfied with the clean sheet.
Defender – Patrick van Aanholt (Sunderland)
The former Chelsea FC left-back scored a cracking goal to give the Black Cats the lead in a match that seemed to be destined for a 0-0 finish, in what would have been Stoke City’s fifth consecutive away clean sheet.
The home side were able to keep out the threat posed by the likes of Marko Arnautovic, Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri, and the Dutch defender had a significant role to play in that. The clean sheet and the potentially season-changing goal for Sunderland gets Van Aanholt a spot in the team of the week.
Midfielder – Yannick Bolasie (Crystal Palace)
The Crystal Palace trickster is the quintessential modern-day winger, with pace, trickery and the ability to score goals by drifting towards the middle of the pitch from wider areas. All of those qualities were on display at Selhurst Park this weekend, with Bolasie getting his name on the scoresheet twice in a 5-1 win.
It has not been an easy season for the Congolese, with his father passing away earlier in this year, and the brace will no doubt give him plenty of confidence going forward.
Midfielder – Junior Stanislas (Bournemouth)
Few matches this season — or indeed, league history — have provided the late drama that Bournemouth v Everton did, and Cherries’ midfielder Junior Stanislas had a big role to play in it.
Stanislas scored in the 87th minute to level proceedings at 2-2, only to see Everton midfielder Ross Barkley give the Toffees the lead five minutes into injury time. Unbelievably, the highlights did not end there, and it was Stanislas who popped up to head in yet another equaliser EIGHT minutes into added-on time to win a point for the hosts.
Midfielder – Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
The Belgian has been in superb form for Manchester City this season, and once again proved his worth in the absence of David Silva. Against a Southampton side that has produced some impressive results this season, De Bruyne got a goal and provided an assist to effectively win the game for the Citizens.
De Bruyne now has 4 goals and 6 assists in 10 Premier League games, and Manuel Pellegrini will be hoping the club record signing can continue in this vein of form for the remainder of the season.
Midfielder – Mesut zil (Arsenal FC)
The Germany international has been ever-present for the Gunners this season, and is finally stepping up to the plate and delivering on a consistent basis — more so than even Alexis Sanchez.
zil gave Arsenal FC the lead against Norwich City on Sunday, extending his run of contributing either a goal or an assist to eight games in the Premier League. With the injury to Sanchez, it will be even more important for the German to continue his fine form heading into the festive period.
Forward – Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Jamie Vardy has been the story of the Premier League season, and was deservedly the story of the weekend, as he broke the relatively long-standing Ruud van Nistelrooy record of scoring in the most consecutive league games by scoring in his ELEVENTH straight game.
To do it against Van Nistelrooy’s former team would have made the record even more special, and the Foxes showed they can compete with the league’s top sides with the 1-1 draw.
Forward – Romelu Lukaku (Everton)
Lukaku has markedly improved this season, particularly in terms of his hold-up and link-up play, and seems to have added consistency to his game to go with it.
The Belgian scored his 10th goal of the season against Bournemouth on Saturday, and looks on track to score twice as many, particularly if he can keep up his current performance levels throughout the course of the season.