x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Gabriel Agbonlahor looks after he leaps

The gamesmanship of Gabriel Agbonlahor, the Aston Villa forward, is terrible, but his acting is impressive.

Gabriel Adbonlahor of Aston Villa did a good job of acting to earn a free kick for the Villans.
Gabriel Adbonlahor of Aston Villa did a good job of acting to earn a free kick for the Villans.

Kevin Affleck looks at the best and the worst elements of what happened in the Premier League this week

Worst keepers - Etihad Stadium

Connoisseurs of the art of goalkeeping will have wished they were doing the "The Poznan", the bizarre dance that sees Manchester City fans celebrate by linking arms, bouncing up and down and turning their backs to the pitch, on Saturday such was the performances of the two goalkeepers.

Wayne Hennessey, the Wolverhampton Wanderers keeper, and Joe Hart, his opposite number at City, swapped shirts at the end of the match and probably a wry smile at their errors.

Hennessey's was more costly, his indecision allowing Edin Dzeko to break the deadlock.

Up until that point Wolves had kept City pretty much at arm's length. Hart then, with the score at 2-0, offered Wolves an unlikely lifeline by needlessly spilling a long-range shot from Adlene Guedioura.

Vincent Kompany then sacrificed himself in an attempt to preserve a clean sheet by preventing Kevin Doyle from an easy tap in. Stephen Hunt scored the penalty, ruining City's clean sheet and, you suspect, Roberto Mancini's day, given the perfectionist he is.

Best dive - Agbonlahor

Well, it could also be worst gamesmanship depending on your viewpoint. The snarling Aston Villa striker does not endear himself to many fans apart from those wearing claret and blue, and he did little to improve his reputation on Saturday.

The England forward collapsed like he had been hit by a firework fired from Mario Balotelli's bathroom under minimal contact from Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson on Saturday.

Larsson was furious at how easily Gabriel Agbonlahor fell to the floor and with some justification as from the resulting free kick, Richard Dunne glanced Villa in front. Agbonlahor celebrated in an unedifying fashion, like a man who knew he had just pulled one over the referee. Thankfully, football justice was served minutes later when Larsson swung over the free kick that led to the equaliser.

Worst choice - Tottenham

Spurs boast two players with magical left feet. Rafael van der Vaart possesses a wand of a left foot which can unstitch the meanest defence or find the back of the net with unerring accuracy.

Gareth Bale's is more of a sledge hammer - just ask Inter Milan, against whom he scored a memorable hat-trick last season. So, when the home side were Sunday awarded a free kick within shooting range you expected the Dutchman or the Welshman to be standing over the ball. Yet Benoit Assou-Ekotto, the left-back with an average of one goal every 114 games for his club, emerged as the unlikely taker.

Assou-Ekotto once said in an interview he doesn't "believe in friendships in football", and the Cameroon international certainly risked alienating his teammates when he sent his effort sailing over the bar.

Best disguise - Murphy

Insiders at Fulham say they find Martin Jol, the manager, very contradictory and Murphy, the captain, certainly looked perplexed on Saturday at being substituted.

Unlike Adam Johnson, Edin Dzeko and Carlos Tevez, he managed to, just about, keep his emotions in check when he was hooked on 70 minutes.

He raised his eyebrows when his number was held up, reluctantly passed the armband to Brede Hangeland, walked straight past Jol and then tossed away the jacket given to him by one of the Fulham back room staff.

Murphy must have been ticking inside and he managed to remain diplomatic despite seeing his replacement, Dickson Etuhu, concede a free kick with his first contribution and then receive a yellow card minutes later.

Worst yellow - Jordan Ibe

OK, Wycombe Wanderers do not play in the Premier League but scouts from England's top division will no doubt be flocking to Adams Park to check out the forward, especially after he scored his first league goal on Saturday at the age of, wait for it, 15.

He has already been on trial at Liverpool and is attracting interest from Manchester United but he received little empathy from Christopher Sarginson, the referee, who harshly booked the schoolboy for celebrating with his family after scoring. And who says football has lost its sense of enjoyment?

Best penalty - Sinclair

There were plenty of candidates; Grant Holt's nerveless effort from 12 yards to salvage a point for Norwich City and Charlie Adam's cool spot-kick for Liverpool against West Bromwich Albion, but Sinclair edges it for sheer consistency.

Seven of his last eight goals have come from the spot and the way he nonchalantly stepped up and paused before sending Bolton's Jussi Jaaskelainen the wrong way was at odds with the mess his fellow Englishmen normally make of a penalties competiting in major tournaments.

It also underlined what a shrewd piece of business Brendan Rodgers, the Swansea City manager, performed in persuading Chelsea, the club where Rodgers cut his coaching teeth, to accept an initial payment of £500,000 (Dh2,96 million) for the England Under 21 international. Talk about mate's rates.

 

kaffleck@thenational.ae