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Team of the Week: Benteke's boys

ESPN staff
December 17, 2012
Christian Benteke tormented the Liverpool defence at Anfield © Getty Images
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Goalkeeper
Brad Guzan's afternoon at Anfield didn't contain a string of stunning saves but with 29 shots on his goal to contend with the Aston Villa stopper had to be on constant alert. As Liverpool laid siege to Villa's goal for large periods of the game Guzan was diligent in all areas of his discipline, dealing with crosses well, rushing out of his area to cut off the supply line to Luis Suarez and repelling several dangerous efforts, none more so than from one of his own defenders.

Defender
Tottenham's battle with Swansea was settled by one elegant swing of a boot. The versatile Jan Vertonghen, switched to centre back against Swansea, performed his defensive duties admirably and showed off his expansive range of passing on several occasions, but his most meaningful involvement came with a delightful half volley from a deflected free-kick that found the bottom corner and sent Spurs fourth in the table.

Defender
Vertonghen's winner robbed the excellent Ashley Williams of a deserved clean sheet. In a defiant defensive display, Swansea's captain marshalled his backline expertly, as time and time again they executed goal-saving last ditch tackles from the likes of Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor. Williams, alongside Chico, hardly put a foot wrong apart from a lapse that left the Belgian free in the penalty but replays suggested they may have been unfortunate not to see the linesman's flag go up.

Jan Vertonghen netted a crucial winner for Spurs © Getty Images
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Defender
In a fledging Aston Villa side, captain Ciaran Clark was the rock upon which their seismic win at Anfield was based. At 23 years of age, Clark can count himself as something of a veteran in Paul Lambert's side and operating in a back three, he was pivotal in weathering both a first and second half assault on their net. Clark, alongside Chris Herd and Nathan Baker, was magnificent.

Midfielder
Yaya Toure clearly likes the crisp north east air, for he has registered game-settling goals on the two times he's visited St James' Park. After a bright Newcastle start one sublime pass undid all their good work, as Toure unlocked their defence for the opener. Sometimes overrun in midfield, Toure was always within range of the home side's creative talent, breaking forward more and more as the game progressed and he duly wrapped up an important win with a predatory poked finish.

Midfielder
Up against opposite numbers Steven Gerrard, Joe Allen and Lucas, Barry Bannan, alongside partner Ashley Westwood, bossed the midfield for Aston Villa. Once the next big thing, then the next big flop, Bannan might just live up to the former if he carries on in this fashion. Prompting and probing from the centre of the park, on this evidence he may well become the first name on Lambert's teamsheet.

Midfielder
Norwich's fifth straight home win in the Premier League came courtesy of a masterful display from Wes Hoolahan, who signed a new contract prior to the game. It looks to be an astute slice of business. The Irish midfielder's persistence set up the first for Anthony Pilkington against Wigan and his cross nearly allowed Robert Snodgrass to sneak a second before half-time. And after the Latics had levelled Hoolahan made sure of the win with a powerful header, reminiscent of colleague Grant Holt.

Midfielder
"He's an amazing talent ... he can be a fruitcake at times." So said Harry Redknapp of Adel Taarabt after the Moroccan's brace helped QPR to their first win in 17 Premier League games. Tinkering with Rangers' tactics to allow the playmaker to operate in a more advanced role, it paid dividends for Redknapp as Taarabt excelled, scoring both goals in the 2-1 defeat of Fulham. If the first owed much to fortune the second didn't - a glorious waft of Taarabt's right boot finding the bottom corner.

Adel Taarabt scores past Mark Schwarzer © PA Photos
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Forward
Darren who? Christian Benteke is fast backing up his manager's decision to marginalise the club's record signing as a series of barnstorming performances like the one against Liverpool on Saturday underline what a raw talent the Belgian is. Scoring two and setting one up on your first visit to Anfield is no mean feat and if his goals showcased his range - a long shot and mazy dribble - his assist for Andreas Wiemann highlighted his silk, as he back-heeled perfectly into the Austrian's path.

Forward
Twelve goals in your first 17 Premier League games for a new club seems like a reasonable return doesn't it? Even if you do have a £20 million price tag on your head. In Manchester United's clash with Sunderland Robin van Persie was instrumental, capitalising on John O'Shea's mistake to notch the opening goal. And in an ominous sign for Premier League defences everywhere, he again linked with Wayne Rooney to secure a third. Quite the little partnership they are forming.

Forward
If I were a betting man I'd lump on Kenwyne Jones to score in Stoke's next game because, after ending his 16-month goal drought against Everton, there is surely more to come. The front man was a constant threat for Stoke, his aerial prowess meaning Peter Crouch's height wasn't such a miss. Jones flicked Ryan Shawcrosss long ball into the net, despite receiving a push from Phil Jagielka, and also hit a post to demonstrate he is back on song.

Manager
Deliberation for manager of the week took all of three seconds. For weeks Paul Lambert has been telling us he has immeasurable faith in his young guns and after their victory at Liverpool made it five Premier League games unbeaten, perhaps a few more people will take notice. He also looks like he's invested a shrewd £7 million in Benteke, who terrorised Liverpool's backline with a man of the match display. Villa are now 14th and looking upwards.

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