x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Premier League best and worst: Hat off to a winner for Everton

Jelavic steals the points at Goodison Park and Tom Cruise misses a blockbuster in Manchester, writes Paul Radley.

Everton's Nikica Jelavic acknowledges the fans as he leaves the field as the match-winner against Tottenham Hotspur.
Everton's Nikica Jelavic acknowledges the fans as he leaves the field as the match-winner against Tottenham Hotspur.

Best thief: Jelavic

They may left it as late as possible, but Everton were good value for their win over Tottenham Hotspur on the balance of play at Goodison Park yesterday.

Nikica Jelavic ghosted in with the stealth of a cat-burglar to steal all three points at the death, 88 seconds after Steven Pienaar had equalised.

And even then the Croatian striker had enough time to commit one more act of pilfering.

As he went to the corner flag to celebrate in a mosh-pit of jubilant Evertonians, he made the most of the fact they were wildly distracted by pinching a blue woolly hat straight off a supporter's head.

Which was a bit harsh. Jelavic earns a mint for playing Premier League football. And if he had wanted an Everton beanie, he probably only had to ask.

Worst waste: Cruise's ticket

The derby game is the one day of the season when, more than any other, the longest-suffering, die-hard supporters should be accommodated for.

Tickets for yesterday's meeting between City and United must have been like gold dust across Manchester way.

There is nothing worse than some fly-by-night, Jonny-come-lately being given a seat that a real fan would have given his small intestine for.

So it must have been unbelievably galling for City supporters not privileged enough to be there to see TV pictures showing Tom Cruise pacing around a corporate box on his mobile phone paying nil attention, just as the table-top fixture reached a frenzy.

Maybe he has given up on LA Galaxy now David Beckham is on his bike. Maybe he is in the UK to give acting lessons to Santi Cazorla and Co.

Or maybe he has had an undying love for City since the first day his dad took him along to watch a game from the Kippax. Maybe.

Best left-foot: Snodgrass

With an urbane former playing great as their manager, a Catalonian passing game and a free-scoring Spanish centre forward, Swansea have become Wales's answer to football's Culture Club this season.

Yet they were undone by the The Messi of East Anglia on their own patch on Saturday.

Whether it is possible to have a cultured left-boot when your name is Robert Snodgrass may be a moot point.

However, the Scottish midfielder proved again that Norwich City can do classy, left-footed playmakers, too.

First he made a delicious contribution to Steven Whittaker's opener with a touch so subtle it belonged in a painting by Turner.

And he later book-ended a valuable win in the Norwich City's ongoing battle for Premier League survival with a fine curling free-kick at the Liberty Stadium.

Worst acceptance: diving

Since when did it become acceptable to try to excuse diving? When Santi Cazorla threw himself to ground, apropos of nothing, to win a penalty for Arsenal on Saturday, the expert analyst's first thought was to look for a mitigating factor.

"There doesn't look like there was any contact," he said. "Not saying that he wasn't expecting [contact], though."

So, on the basis that Steven Reid, the West Bromwich Albion defender, was in his general vicinity, it was OK for the Spaniard to get ready to leap in the air clutching his shin?

Even Steve Clarke, the West Brom manager, said it was the referee's fault, overlooking the player's total disregard for fair play.

In the game analysis that followed, it took an age for the argument to wend its way to the conclusion that the player may have been to blame for simulating an offence that never happened. It is embarrassing. More pertinently, it is cheating.

Best penalty: Torres

Sometimes goalkeepers are able to lean on recent evidence to try to outfox an opposition penalty taker. Boaz Myhill, West Brom's goalkeeper, had been given a teaser about what to expect when Mikel Arteta lined up the ultimately clinching spot-kick for Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium.

Arteta had gone straight down the middle with the first penalty Arsenal were awarded earlier in the game. He repeated the trick, but Myhill was already gone.

Simon Mignolet had no such pointers when Chelsea's £50 million (Dh294.6m) striker Fernando Torres put the ball down 12 yards out in the London side's win at Sunderland.

It was his first penalty in English football. Not that a lack of practice counted against him.

His method was a refreshingly basic one, too. Torres proved that just belting the ball right into the corner of the goal usually suffices.