Defenders Dominate in Premier League Week 30

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With seven sides managing to keep clean sheets and six others conceding just the one goals this weekend, EPL Week 30 was one for the defenders to be proud of.

With Manchester City’s stars failing to perform at Goodison Park, bitter rivals Manchester United took another step towards reclaiming the Premier League title, establishing a 15-point lead over the Citizens.

Eden Hazard Chelsea

Eden Hazard of Chelsea (via Wikimedia Commons)

Things also shifted at the other end of the English top flight as Aston Villa, Wigan and Southampton all took steps away from the drop while QPR, Sunderland and Reading’s odds all dipped slightly.

The following players all did their duty in stepping up to their respective challenge this weekend, be it as favourites or underdogs, deserving special mentions for the results they helped earn.

 

Jan Mucha

The task of standing up to Manchester City’s ample attack and coming out on the other side with a clean sheet still intact is one not many goalkeepers can brag about.

However, with Tim Howard absent through a back injury, the Slovakian stood out as one particularly stern gatekeeper in just the second Premier League appearance of his career.

In Everton’s 2-0 win over the reigning English champions, Mucha made a remarkable eight saves against City, restricting the likes of Edin Dzeko, Carlos Tevez and David Silva from adding to their season totals.

Mucha was particularly tested in the second half after Steven Pienaar saw red in the 61st minute, after which the Toffees’ goal was subjected to a Manchester City onslaught.

 

Rio Ferdinand

Despite getting off to a terrible start to the season defensively, Manchester United have undergone a metamorphosis at the back in 2013, seeing out their fifth consecutive Premier League clean sheet against Reading.

Although the victory wasn’t as clean as they might have preferred, the Red Devils’ 1-0 win over the Royals was largely thanks to the heroics of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja, both of whom were ruffled by Reading’s attack far more than many might have presumed.

Although the veteran might be pushing into his latter years at 34 years of age, the centre-back’s display against a manager-less Reading was illustrative of the vast skills in positioning and awareness Ferdinand still possesses.

 

Nacho Monreal

The defensive showing of the weekend, Nacho Monreal goes down as Man of the Match for Arsenal as the Gunners fought out a tough 2-0 win at the Liberty Stadium.

After a tense 74 minutes, the Spaniard opened the scoring with a fierce left-footed strike from just within the Swansea box and tested the Welsh side’s back-line with some probing runs all afternoon.

As well as helping out going forward, the 27-year-old was astute in defence and gave a well-rounded performance against the Swans, something some modern full-backs might take note of.

 

Andreas Weimann

Emerging as one of Aston Villa’s prominent performers this season, Andreas Weimann has stepped into the limelight in recent months and helped his side away from the relegation zone in a vital 3-2 win over fellow candidates for the drop, QPR.

The 21-year-old gave Villa their first lead of the day, putting Paul Lambert’s side ahead with a low, driven shot that Julio Cesar failed to fend away.

This came before Weimann’s late assist where he delivered a cross for Christian Benteke that found its man and ultimately won the game for the Birmingham hosts.

 

Eden Hazard

Arguably the best player this weekend, Eden Hazard provided an assist and a goal of his own for Chelsea as the Blues romped to a 2-0 triumph over West Ham, putting them back within reach of second place.

The Belgian put the ball on a plate for Frank Lampard to head home the hosts’ opening goal before finishing off a jinking run with a low driven shot that Jussi Jaaskelainen had no chance of stopping.

At times this season, Hazard has risen fears that he would be unable to reach the heights seen during his time with Lille but a magician-like display against the Hammers assured doubters that the 22-year-old is very much a marvel in England.

 

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