x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Best and Worst: Jon Walters left out on his own

Stoke City's Jon Walter has a nightmare against Chelsea while goalkeeper Julio Cesar tallys clean sheet for QPR, writes Paul Radley.

Stoke's Jonathan Walters, centre, is consoled by his captain Ryan Shawcross after scoring an own goal during his team's 4-0 loss to Chelsea on Saturday.
Stoke's Jonathan Walters, centre, is consoled by his captain Ryan Shawcross after scoring an own goal during his team's 4-0 loss to Chelsea on Saturday.

Worst ever: Walters

If you were the anxious type suffering from restless sleep the night before a big match against the European Champions, you might dream about scoring two own goals and missing a last-minute penalty.

Then you would wake up and all would be well with the world because it never really happened. Real life is never that bad.

Poor old Jon Walters. The Stoke City trier had the mother of all nightmare's against Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium on Saturday. He will take no comfort from the fact his opener was an absolute scorcher, a diving header into the corner of Asmir Begovic's goal.

It was so good, he tried to re-enact it in the second phase, beating Frank Lampard to the jump and diverting into his own net for a second time.

As his manager, Tony Pulis, rightly pointed out, Walters was brave to take the penalty that Stoke were granted with the game gone. Or maybe just foolhardy.

Perhaps it could have been worse. At least the Republic of Ireland forward did not score a hat-trick of OGs. Small mercies.

Best goalkeeper: Cesar

It was Inter Milan's right-back, Maicon, who Gareth Bale most famously took to the cleaners over two legs of Champions League football back in 2010.

But the Brazilian full-back was not the only one who bore lasting scars from the coming-of-age of the Welsh winger.

Back then, Julio Cesar, the Inter and Brazil No 1, was touted as the best goalkeeper in the world, alongside Iker Casillas and Gigi Buffon.

He had been named the keeper of the year in Italy for two consecutive seasons. Never since, though.

Some observers reckon he has never been the same again. A move from the Italian giants to Queens Park Rangers this season suggested as much.

However, he proved on Saturday that there is still plenty of life left in his 33-year-old limbs when he shut out Bale and Tottenham at Loftus Road.

"Game changing," is how his teammate Shaun Derry described the Brazilian's early double save to thwart Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Worst trip: Del Bosque

Goodison Park in mid-January to see Everton play Swansea? Not the most salubrious trip Vicente Del Bosque, the Spain manager and recently named Fifa coach of the year, has ever undertaken.

The Invincibles of Spain can really be improved only incrementally, if at all. As such, their manager has to think laterally when it comes to new personnel – which explains his trip to the UK to see Michu, Swansea's Spanish hotshot, in person.

Judging by the Fifa team of the year, all the good players play in Spain, anyway, but he opted to look in on the bargain buy of the Premier League season, just on the off chance.

Pity for him, then, that Michael Laudrup, the Swansea manager, opted to park the bus. Del Bosque never got the memo.

"If Del Bosque had called me before, I could have told him it wasn't the best game to see Michu," Laudrup was quoted as saying afterwards.

Best rewrite: Reading

West Bromwich Albion were doing their bit for all the reporters writing to an on-the-whistle deadline at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday.

The Baggies were home and hosed with nine minutes to go, 2-0 up against Reading thanks to Romelu Lukaku. The match reports just needed top and tailing, then press send and away they go.

Steve Clarke, the West Brom manager, said as much. "We were so far in front you could not see the end of the game coming," he said.

Then Jimmy Kebe and Adam Le Fondre sent fingers racing towards the backspace key, as they started an impossible comeback for the Royals.

To make matters worse, the winner was scored by the spell-check busting Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak. Try making a headline pun out of that.

Best stats man: Statto

In the high stakes world of Premier League football, managers are constantly on the look out for any extra advantages they can find.

As such, a team analyst with a head for advanced statistics has become almost as prized as a decent centre-half.

So maybe there should have been no surprise at Old Trafford yesterday when Sir Alex Ferguson leant back over the barrier behind his seat and started chatting to Angus Loughran.

Loughran's alias is Statto, the celebrated stats geek from Fantasy Football League, the popular UK television show of the 1990s, and he knows his facts.

"You reckon we'll score from here?" the Manchester United manager may have been asking.

"My calculations suggest there is a good chance," Statto might have answered, before Patrice Evra and Nemanja Vidic combined for the decider against Liverpool.

pradley@thenational.ae

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