HomeSportWho 'conjured a couple of magic tricks' - Garth Crooks' Team of...

Who ‘conjured a couple of magic tricks’ – Garth Crooks’ Team of the Week


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At the end of every round of fixtures, BBC football pundit Garth Crooks is on hand to give you his Team of the Week.Who has he picked for the third weekend of the Premier League season? Take a look below and, as ever, Garth also has his say on the game’s big talking points in the Crooks of the Matter.Alisson (Liverpool): “Today was about passion and about believing” – those were the words of Alisson in his post-match interview after Liverpool had beaten Newcastle 2-1 with 10 men. The Brazilian goalkeeper made seven saves against the Magpies, a personal record in the Premier League – his best coming from a Miguel Almiron shot which he somehow pushed on to the bar.Alphonse Areola was brilliant for West Ham against Brighton and would have made my team under normal circumstances, but what Liverpool achieved at St James’ Park was extraordinary – and that is why Alisson makes my team. Joe Gomez (Liverpool): The tactical changes made by Jurgen Klopp and his backroom staff after Virgil van Dijk’s dismissal was nothing short of genius. Gomez replaced Luis Diaz, who naturally felt aggrieved by the substitution, and was soon joined by Harvey Elliott, Diogo Jota, Darwin Nunez and Jarell Quansah to take up the fight and try to salvage a point from the game. Well. they did more than that – they won it . It’s not often you see five substitutes gel into a team immediately, but these five did. Gomez. who has blown hot and cold in recent seasons, took Van Dijk’s central defensive position after 33 minutes and never put a foot wrong. The victory by Liverpool, while devastating to Newcastle, may prove the turning point the Reds have been desperately searching for. Matty Cash (Aston Villa): It was an impressive away performance by Aston Villa at Burnley and full-back Cash in particular. His two goals were well taken and he was unlucky not to get a hat-trick. Manager Unai Emery’s insistence on playing three central defenders has released Cash to play in a more adventurous role and it seems to be paying off. Villa had too much for Burnley in every department and apart from their opening-day blip at St James’ Park, have had an impressive start to the season. They comfortably dispatched Hibernian in the Europa Conference League play-off in midweek and still dealt with Burnley away from home. I’ve always felt Villa’s Europa League commitments will eventually find them out, but so far so good.Joachim Andersen (Crystal Palace): What perseverance by the Crystal Palace defender at Brentford. This is the second time this season Andersen has found himself in my selection. He was outstanding at Sheffield United on the opening day and I also thought Palace were a little unlucky not to come away with a point against Arsenal on Monday night. But their performance at Brentford might have provided them with all three.It was Andersen’s will and determination that eventually got him his goal and Palace a point. He never gave up on the pass, even when his touch seemed a little heavy. The Denmark international is growing into a formidable defender and forming a very good partnership with Marc Guehi. Meanwhile, Palace still seem to be making steady progress under Roy Hodgson.Joao Palhinha (Fulham): Palhinha was in excellent form against Arsenal and conjured a couple of magic tricks to get Fulham out of trouble. It was Palhinha who forced Bukayo Saka to uncharacteristically panic and give the ball away, which led to Fulham’s opening goal, before producing an excellent finish himself to earn his side a 2-2 draw. Fulham deserved to share the points with Arsenal despite referee Paul Tierney’s poor decision-making. Cottagers boss Marco Silva was entitled to get animated when he saw one of his players on the floor injured and the referee disregarded it and waved play on. Referees are not doctors or physiotherapists and need to be careful when making such judgements. James Maddison (Tottenham): Harry Kane doesn’t play for Tottenham anymore, but it does not seem to have stunted their growth. Eric Dier is nowhere to be seen and Richarlison looks like he’s playing in lead boots, but since the arrival of new manager Ange Postecoglou and especially Maddison, Spurs are starting to look like a team and not a one-man show. I saw something similar in an old Arsenal line-up under George Graham when everything was directed towards Ian Wright and if he didn’t score, no-one did. Then Arsene Wenger – who no-one had heard of in England – came along and transformed the Gunners into a title-winning team. Still early days for Spurs but it’s a good start. Bruno Fernandes (Manchester United): The Manchester United captain is trying to convince us they are capable of great things. Who is he trying to kid? I’ve seen nothing great about United so far this season. They beat Wolves 1-0 having been outplayed; lost at Spurs in a game they never looked like winning, and managed to beat a Nottingham Forest side who haven’t won at Old Trafford since 1994. Fernandes did, however, manage to play a significant part in United’s comeback against Forest after being 2-0 down. His assist for Casemiro to score was unselfish and his free-kick to put Diogo Dalot clear on goal was clever, if not quite brilliant. If only Dalot had not been half-asleep when the ball arrived at his feet. Fernandes’ penalty then provided United their winning goal. He always looks comfortable in the big moments and that’s what makes him a success at United.Raheem Sterling (Chelsea): It would appear Chelsea, or should I say Mauricio Pochettino, has got Sterling playing again. He was the best player on the park at West Ham last week and, with two goals and an assist, he single-handedly ripped Luton Town apart. I can’t help feeling Sterling, who was the best player in the country at one stage under Pep Guardiola, eventually buckled under the demands made of him by the Manchester City coach. Leaving the Etihad must have been a wrench but to return to his native London to rehabilitate himself wasn’t a bad idea. Now he looks like a player again and Chelsea must use him wisely. Sterling is no longer a youngster but a senior pro and still has a lot to offer. Read why I think Sterling has something to prove at Chelsea in the Crooks of the Matter below. Darwin Nunez (Liverpool): What a performance by Liverpool at Newcastle, whose boss Eddie Howe looked shell-shocked. There seemed to be no way back for Liverpool with just 10 men on the field and 1-0 down. Only substitute Nunez and, possibly, boss Klopp thought there may have been the faintest chance of snatching a point – but in scoring both his side’s goals, what the striker did was stunning. I have doubted this lad for some time but it seemed the perilous situation Liverpool found themselves in galvanised everyone associated with the club. Once Nunez equalised, he seemed like a man possessed and desperate to wreck Newcastle’s day. He’s ruined their entire week with his match-winning display.Marcus Rashford (Manchester United): It’s not often you see Rashford providing the production – he’s normally the star. However, against a very determined Forest, the United striker produced the most telling pass across Forest’s six-yard box for Christian Eriksen to convert. It was followed by the most wonderful ball for Fernandes to set up Casemiro to finish. He eventually caused Danilo Oliveira so much stress, the Forest defender was forced to bring the England striker down in the box, conceding a penalty. For some reason United are taking far too long to get going in games and have conceded four goals in the last two matches. Boss Erik ten Hag can talk all he wants about his team showing character, calmness and composure to get back into this game against Forest, but the truth is United have once again got away with a result. Other teams will not be that generous.Erling Haaland (Manchester City): Haaland may have missed a hatful of chances in the first half at Sheffield United and a 37th-minute penalty, but all that did was strengthen his resolve. He doesn’t care about the missed opportunities, he’s only interested in increasing his goal tally. The Norway international never flinched in his responsibilities, and when Jack Grealish placed the ball invitingly into United’s box for Haaland to attack, he buried it.There was a moment when Kyle Walker, whose mistake led to the Blades’ equaliser before Manchester City’s late winner, looked more like a rookie than their captain. If Walker wants to retain the role, he has to show leadership and not arrogance. The former will win him titles – and the latter will lose them.The Crooks of the MatterIt wasn’t that long ago Chelsea banned a fan for life for using “racially abusive language” towards Raheem Sterling, who was playing for Manchester City at the time in a match at Stamford Bridge. Five other Blues supporters were temporarily suspended for using “abusive language and threatening and aggressive behaviour” towards the player.How ironic then to see not just Sterling now playing for Chelsea and being heralded by his manager and supporters, but a host of black players performing for the club. It certainly puts into sharp perspective the changes that have been made at Stamford Bridge since the days of Chelsea’s first black player, Paul Canoville, and the irrational nature of racism in football. One minute you can be on the end of appalling abuse and the next hero-worshipped by the same group of people.Chelsea, and in particular former owner Roman Abramovich, have done much to rid the club of its toxic past by refusing to have barriers of entry and it’s one of the reasons why they find themselves so attractive to such an eclectic mix of foreign players. As long as football continues to create brilliant players, the game has a chance of cleansing itself of racist abuse.

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