The weekend's top performers

Team of the Week

April 21, 2013
By Chris Murphy
(Archive)

Move over Brad Friedel, there's a new veteran goalkeeper in town. The 38-year-old Jussi Jaaskelainen proved he still has what it takes to operate at Premier League level with a fine display against struggling Wigan. The Finn penned a new one-year deal recently and showed why the club were keen to pin him down, saving well from Jean Beasejour and Shaun Maloney before his finest moment - a reflex parry to deny a close range James McArthur effort.

West Brom equalised against Newcastle through Billy Jones
GettyImagesWest Brom equalised against Newcastle through Billy Jones

It might come as something of a surprise that Billy Jones became the first Englishman to score for West Bromwich Albion this season with his point-salvaging strike against Newcastle United. The full back's late run into the box went unnoticed just after the hour mark as he latched onto a neat lay off from powerhouse striker Romelu Lukakau and finished precisely. Apart from his goal, Jones was competent in almost every contribution he made.

He may be famed for his flamboyant attacking play when he was a Premier League star but as a manager Paolo Di Canio has made a priority of tightening up Sunderland's previously porous defence. A second successive clean sheet helped them to another vital win in which Danny Rose excelled. Always fully committed and possessing a keen eye going forward (just ask Arsenal fans), Rose was formidable at both ends of the pitch in Sunderland's narrow victory over Everton.

It was ungainly but in the end, Arsenal got the job done. Fitting then, that Per Mertesacker was the hero because that sums him up rather neatly too. The tall German grabbed an important winner as he finished off a knock down from Laurent Koscielny but was excellent in his defensive work all afternoon. It is performances like this that remind you why Arsene Wenger recruited him.

While Andy Carroll grabs the headlines in West Ham's march towards safety, not much has been made of the vital role James Collins has played. The no-nonsense defender has been rock solid in recent weeks as the Hammers have gone five unbeaten. While Wigan caused plenty of problems, Collins played a crucial role in blocking, tackling and clearing the danger time after time.

Newcastle needed something to restore some pride after last week's battering at the hands of Sunderland and while a point wasn't what they came to the Midlands for at least the form of Yohan Cabaye was something to enjoy. The Frenchman orchestrated their best attacking moves in a first half they dominated, and wasn't afraid to put his foot in when the Magpies were under the cosh in the second period.

Norwich clambered closer to Premier League safety with a 2-1 victory over doomed Reading in a game that saw Elliott Bennett further his claim for a regular starting berth in Chris Hughton's side. After providing two assists in his last game, at home to Swansea, Bennett was again a menace down the wing and this time grabbed his first Premier League goal of the season, poking under Alex McCarthy after the Reading 'keeper had gone walkabout.

It is a measure of Gareth Bale's influence that he can have a modest game and still provide two decisive moments. Well shackled by Manchester City for large parts of the first half, Bale played a full part in Tottenham's spectacular six minute turnaround. His slide rule cross set up Clint Dempsey's equaliser, then a brilliant run onto Tom Huddlestone's pinpoint pass allowed him to dink neatly over Joe Hart and put the seal on a crucial victory.

Paolo Di Canio clearly likes the cut of Stephane Sessegnon's jib. "The little one is big. He's a big player," the Italian purred after his diminutive forward sent Sunderland on the way to a second successive victory under their new manager. Sessegnon's return to form has coincided with goals and he followed last week's fine solo strike against Newcastle with another that settled a vital win over Everton.

Per Mertesacker goal Fulham v arsenal
PA PhotosPer Mertesacker goal Fulham v arsenal

With Stoke immersed in an ugly scrap for Premier League survival, Tony Pulis decided it was back to basics for their do-or-die trip to Queens Park Rangers. A tall, lanky sign of this came in the shape of Peter Crouch, recalled after two games on the bench. Ironically, he all but confirmed relegation for a side who wanted to sign him in January, tucking home from close range after Cameron Jerome's cross before winning a penalty from Clint Hill to allow Jonathan Walters to seal the match.

All the headlines from Anfield will surround Luis Suarez, but while the Uruguayan hogs the column inches, one can only hope Daniel Sturridge's contribution to Liverpool's draw with Chelsea is not lost. Coming on at half time the former Blues striker set up a chance for Steven Gerrard within 15 seconds, hit the post moments later then swept home coolly from Suarez's expert cross. And with time running out, Sturridge returned the favour, floating a cross onto Suarez's head for Liverpool's leveller.

His side were outplayed and outt-hought for almost 75 minutes at White Hart Lane but Andre Villas-Boas proved his tactical instincts are in full working order as his substitutions turned the tide against Manchester City and revived Tottenham's Champions League hopes. Introducing Lewis Holtby, Tom Huddlestone and Jermain Defoe was a masterstroke, as they combined to produce a 3-1 win with a blistering spell of three goals in six-and-half minutes.