x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Premier League best and worst: Ruiz lets it fly Poborsky class

The striker proved why he is rated so highly by Fulham fans with a special goal against Bolton.

Fullham paid £10.6 million forBryan Ruiz in the transfer window and the striker did not disappoint at Craven Cottage on Saturday.
Fullham paid £10.6 million forBryan Ruiz in the transfer window and the striker did not disappoint at Craven Cottage on Saturday.

Best Poborsky – Ruiz

Not every reader will be old enough to remember Karel Poborsky's lobbed goal for the Czech Republic against Portugal at the 1996 European Championships.

It won the quarter-final tie, and was so innovative that it got its own name - "the Poborsky" - sparking budding footballers everywhere to try to replicate it.

A classic chip shot is akin to hitting a golf ball with a wedge; the player slices through the ball to give it lift and backspin. Poborsky slid his foot completely under the ball and then flicked his whole leg up, resulting in an almost vertical elevation over the goalkeeper.

Bryan Ruiz pulled off a classic Poborsky for Fulham's second goal against Bolton Wanderers, leaving keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen stranded.

It was a piece of class that reminded Fulham fans why the club paid £10.6 million (Dh60.4m) to Twente for him in the summer.

Watch the video of that shot here.

Worst hands – Cech

Petr Cech's status as the Premier League's best goalkeeper was at one time undisputed. He was the rock of the Jose Mourinho-led Chelsea teams that won titles in 2005 and 2006.

However, since suffering a fractured skull in a collision with Reading's Stephen Hunt in 2006, resulting in Cech wearing a protective cap, something has seemed slightly wrong with the Czech stopper. Perhaps his confidence has been affected by the accident.

He is still a top-class keeper, but the pre-2006 version of Petr Cech would not have made the mistake the 2011 version made at Wigan Athletic, spilling the ball to Jordi Gomez's feet, and throwing away two points for Chelsea.

Best early birds – Manchester United

The champions made the trip south from Manchester to London for a game against Queens Park Rangers that kicked off at midday. Spare a thought for their fans: the earliest available train to London arrived in England's capital with only 48 minutes to spare before kick-off.

United traditionally do not do as well in early kick-offs. Since 2006, according to Opta, they have won 58 per cent of games kicking off before 3pm, compared to 75 per cent of games after. Their loss percentage is 21.8 per cent before 3pm compared to 9.3 per cent after.

That form went out the window, however, when Wayne Rooney netted after 52 seconds at Loftus Road to put his side on their way to a 2-0 victory in one of their best performances for weeks.

Worst miss – Modric

There seemed to be a competition going on in London yesterday for the biggest blooper. In QPR's home match with Manchester United, the substitute forward DJ Campbell managed to throw away a chance to get his team back in the game at 2-1, with 20 minutes left, when he sidefooted the ball over from six yards.

If you are making excuses for him, he was airborne, and the cross had a fair bit of pace on it. And there was a keeper to beat.

Later in the day, in the north of the city, his miss was surpassed by Luka Modric, the gifted Tottenham Hotspur midfielder.

Emmanuel Adebayor, the Spurs striker, fluffed an attempted lob over the Sunderland keeper when through on goal. The ball deflected straight to Modric who had the entire empty goal to aim at, with no goalkeeper to beat.

Keiren Westwood was still on the floor from stopping Adebayor's effort. Even so, Modric, the usually technically brilliant Croatian, lofted his shot over from the middle of the area.

Best skills – Liverpool

When Liverpool won most of their recent league titles, in the 1980s, English football was known by the rest of the world for its unsophisticated, direct style. Or the long-ball game as most people know it. How times have changed.

For a start, Liverpool's team, like most Premier League outfits, has gone from all-British to one which includes a Spaniard, a Dane, a Slovakian and a Uruguayan.

And it is hard to imagine any team back in the 1980s - even dominant Liverpool - netting a goal such as Craig Bellamy's opener at Aston Villa yesterday. A low corner came at Jonjo Shelvey, whose first instinct was to back-heel flick the ball towards goal.

The ball in turn fell to Luis Suarez, whose first instinct was also to back-heel flick it towards goal. It rebounded to Bellamy to finish off.

Back-heel – the word probably didn't exist in football's dark old days.