Tim Howard and Wojciech Szczesny state case for the keepers
When it comes to player of the month awards, or player of the year come to that, invariably it’s the game’s golden boys – the playmakers or the goal-getters – who take centre stage.
But what about those under-stated, some might say over-protected, custodians between the sticks who only seem to make headlines when they drop a clanger?
Everton’s Tim Howard and Arsenal’s Wojciech Szczesny certainly stated a strong case for the much-maligned last line of defence with heroic performances at the weekend.
Aston Villa’s clash with Everton quickly turned into an international showdown between Belgium and the United States of America.
Strikers Christian Benteke and Romelo Lukaku were flying the Belgian flag whilst keepers Howard and Brad Guzan were doing their bit for the stars and stripes.
Goalscorer Lukaku took the honours in his personal showdown with fellow-countryman Benteke who was frustrated throughout Villa’s 2-0 defeat by all American hero Howard.
Guzan in the Villa goal did well to limit Everton to two, but Howard took the bulk of the plaudits after saving a Benteke spot kick and producing a catalogue of crucial stops.
Everton boss Roberto Martinez was full of praise for his inspired No.1 and said: “I thought it was a very important clean sheet and nobody deserved it more than Tim Howard.
"For the first 25 minutes we have him to thank for being in the game. Without Tim it would have been a very difficult second half and it was a great example of how lucky and how privileged we are to have a player like Tim Howard.”
League leaders Arsenal, meanwhile, were also 2-0 away winners at Selhurst Park where their victory was due in no small part to the brilliance and athleticism of Wojciech Szczesny.
Palace’s caretaker boss Keith Millen described two of Szczesny’s saves – from Joel Ward and Mile Jedinak, in particular – as ‘world class’ and few would disagree.
Certainly not Arsene Wenger who has always maintained belief in the young Pole, whilst others’ faith waned, believing his current number one could be the new Jens Lehmann.
“I was always convinced that Szczesny would make it,” said Wenger. “He reminds me of Lehmann and I gave him Lehmann as an example.”
It wasn’t such a good weekend for fellow stopper Joe Hart who, having restored his reputation with show-stopping performances for club and country in recent weeks, blotted his copybook once again.
Chelsea, ultimately, finished ‘Head and Shoulders’ above title rivals Manchester City at Stamford Bridge where Hart suffered another hair-raising moment in a topsy-turvy season.
The City keeper has endured some torrid times this season and cost his team dear once again. Maybe he should have been advertising ‘Wash and Go’ instead!
That’s surely what Hart would have done after his latest aberration which presented Fernando Torres with his first Premier League goal since Christmas. Sorry Joe!
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