Well the Christmas season has come and gone but there was plenty of football both here and abroad to keep the most passionate of fans satisfied. The EPL as usual was jam packed with matches to fill the largest of hard drives and cause endless arguments over the TV remote in many households.
To the A-League and Round 15 saw four clean sheets recorded for the men with the gloves. Mat Ryan continues to impress here and abroad and still tops the clean sheet statistics with seven for the season. But it is Ryan’s very small goal conceded tally of just nine that places him in the most wanted category for European clubs in particular Rangers. Fortunately for his Manager Graham Arnold, Ryan’s trial with Rangers was put on the back burner due to a minor shoulder injury suffered in the impressive two goal win on Sunday over Western Sydney Wanderers at Parramatta Stadium. Given Central Coast’s position atop the A-League ladder, Ryan’s presence at the back would be a tremendous boast to their Premiership aspirations after coming so close last season.
Adelaide United’s Eugene Galekovic will be hoping his New Year return to clean sheet form will continue after his side’s unfortunate 6-1 Western Sydney ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ and the doubling of his goals conceded in a single game. Nathan Coe (Melbourne Victory) and Mark Birighitti (Newcastle Jets) are also performing well with Birighitti getting on the board for is first clean sheet of the season. Birighitti made a courageous return to the team after suffering a painful cheekbone injury in mid November that was set rule him out for up to eight weeks. Birighitti recorded his club’s first clean sheet of the season that will please Manager Gary Van Egmond no end, as they are second only to Sydney FC for goals conceded. The save of the week has to go to Mark Paston for his low down reflex effort against the Brisbane Roar on New Year’s Day. This weekend’s clash between the Melbourne Victory and the Central Coast Mariner promises to be an exciting clash and its wonderful to see the Victory Club and the A-League branching out their supporter base by playing the game at Aurora Stadium in Launceston.
Moving to the EPL and after a busy festive period, many squads have had the opportunity to rotate and rest players for the third round of FA Cup fixtures. There were a few clean sheets recorded including the surprise win over Chelsea by QPR. Julio Cesar pulled off one of the saves of the round by denying Fernando Torres in recording his eighth EPL goal of the season. It was Cesar’s second clean sheet and went a long way in helping his relegation poised side record their first away win since November 2011 and first win at Stamford Bridge in 30 years.
Meanwhile at Liverpool, Pepe Reina continued to keep Brad Jones warming the bench as his side took care of Sunderland at Anfield. The win helped place them into eighth place on the ladder. This week will be the ultimate test for The Reds as they travel to Old Trafford to take on their fiercest rivals in Manchester United. They last met back in September where United took the points in an emotional and spiteful clash following the red card handed to Jonjo Shelvey for his sloppy challenge on Jonny Evans. David De Gea has been in good form in the box for the Devils after keeping six unanswered goals in a very lean Christmas period for their opponents.
Joe Hart has his chance to share clean sheet honours with Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic as Man City travel to Emirates Stadium to try and silence the guns of Arsenal. Hart comes off the back of two consecutive clean sheets against Stoke and a FA Cup third round win over Championship side Watford. The match promises to be an interesting clash as there is never too much between the two sides if their one all draw at The Etihad back in late September is anything to go by.
That’s all for another week, the best of luck to your team this week and here’s hoping for a plethora of scoreless draws so we get the keepers back in the back page headlines where they belong.
Random Clean Sheet Trivia Question
What keeper has the highest goals conceded tally in the EPL and what is the number?
(As at the end of Round 21)
Football Quote of the Week
If I could, I’d vote for myself. Being too humble isn’t good. In Portugal, we say ‘Too much humility is vanity’.
– Ronaldo on the Ballon d’Or
Yours in football
Big Fella (James Clark)