The last of February’s Premier League fixtures saw a dramatic weekend of football and more than our fair share of contentious refereeing. The lead at the top was cut down to just five points, two derbies took place in the capital and a last-minute penalty brought heartbreak to two Premier League managers, young and old.
The Football Express team of the week will line up in a traditional, attacking 4-4-2 formation.
Goalkeeper: Simon Mignolet (Liverpool)
It is fair to say that the Belgian suffered a terrible start to the season and severely lacked confidence, prompting him to be dropped by Brendan Rodgers. However, these days Mignolet is assured and commanding in between the sticks. He continued his resurgence with some outstanding saves, especially in the opening 45 minutes to deny a dominant Southampton side.
Right-back: Branislav Ivanović (Chelsea)
Praised as one of the best signings in Chelsea’s history by José Mourinho, the Serbian is one of the first names on the team sheet and continued his remarkable scoring run of late. The 31 year-old scored his fourth goal in six games to give Chelsea the lead and was a constant force in Chelsea’s attack. Also did well to keep his composure not to react to Ashley Barnes’ challenge on 30 minutes.
Centre-back: Martin Škrtel (Liverpool)
Caught out just the once in Liverpool’s 2-0 victory at St. Mary’s with a ball over the top to Elia, but was saved by his keeper. Škrtel commanded the defence well as Liverpool recorded a clean sheet. The Slovakian appeared to relish the physical battle on his hands with Graziano Pellè leading the line for Southampton. Awarded SkySports Man of the Match even with the vulnerable looking Lovren in defence.
Centre-back: Winston Reid (West Ham United)
Has been West Ham’s standout performer in defence for the last few seasons and showed just why on Sunday. Rumours of him joining Tottenham in the summer will not please West Ham fans but his consistency for the hammers should do. Dominant in the air as Spurs struggled to play their way through the West Ham back four, nearly faultless display from the New Zealander. Unlucky to have conceded two goals at the depth to their London rivals.
Left-back: Ben Mee (Burnley)
Coped well with Chelsea’s dangerous right-hand side, consisting of Cuadrado (replaced by Willian on 60 minutes) and attacking full-back Ivanović. Along with his back four, he endured large spells of Chelsea pressure and possession but stood firm, conceding just the one goal. Popped up with a late equaliser to bring what might be a vital point back to Turf Moor with a bullet header.
Right-midfield: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Undoubtedly Arsenal’s player of the season alongside Alexis Sánchez, Cazorla is the man the gunners will look to in the battle for the top four. Demonstrated his class with a coolly taken penalty to give Arsenal the lead in the London derby and linked the play well. Comfortable with both feet and a player all football fans should admire.
Centre-midfield: Cheikhou Kouyaté (West Ham United)
West Ham were unlucky not to come away from White Hart Lane without the three points, having nearly executed the perfect away performance. Dogged in midfield, organised in defence and dangerous on the attack, nobody typified the tenacity of the hammers as Kouyaté did. On the shopping list of many top clubs in the summer, including Arsenal, the Senegalese international has proved to be a real coup for Sam Allardyce this season and bagged one of West Ham’s two goals with a powerful header.
Centre-midfield: Esteban Cambiasso (Leicester City)
With Leicester City rooted at the bottom of the table, Nigel Pearson will be looking for leaders in his team and Cambiasso has nominated himself as a leader week in and week out. For a player who has played for all-conquering sides in the shape of Real Madrid and Inter Milan, the veteran has certainly not shirked away from the fight to avoid relegation. He showed his class at Everton with an assured performance. The Argentine international used the ball well all game, rarely conceding possession to the opposition, and contributed in attack with a well-taken finish on his trusted left-foot.
Left-midfield: David Silva (Manchester City)
The cliché ‘five-star performance’ has been used in abundance to describe City’s five-nil drumming of Newcastle. At the heart of such a terrific result was the little Spaniard who, if you forgive me, indeed put in a five-star performance. The silky playmaker played a brilliant ball to Edin Dzeko for City’s third and was dangerous in possession with his unrivalled vision. The ex-Valencia man capped off a fantastic individual performance with two second half goals in the space of 103 seconds to take his Premier League tally to nine for the season.
Striker: Sergio Agüero (Manchester City)
Opened the scoring from the penalty spot after just one minute and appeared to be back to 100% fitness after returning for injury. Struck the Newcastle defenders with fear every time he possessed the ball with his searing pace and close control. Seems a safe bet for the Premier League golden boot if he avoids injury, currently joint-top with Diego Costa on 17 thus far.
Striker: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)
The striker has been in scintillating form this season and has nearly as many goals as appearances to his name. The young forward was forced to work on scraps as Tottenham struggled to break down a well-drilled West Ham side, but was central to Spurs’ attacking play. Despite hitting the post and seeing a goal disallowed he refused to give up and got his reward when he followed up his own penalty to equalise. The striker’s performance was summed up at fulltime as the camera caught him uttering the words, ‘never give up.’