Team of the Week
Norwich have been a surprise success in the Premier League this season and one of their best performers throughout has been goalkeeper John Ruddy. It is unusual for a goalkeeper who conceded three times to be included in the reckoning for Team of the Week, but that is testament to Ruddy's showing which thwarted Arsenal's pursuit of a win to solidify their grip on third place. With Norwich behind in the second-half, Ruddy made a string of top-quality saves to keep his side in the game and therefore allow Steve Morison to pull his side level in the game's closing moments.
Spurs loanee Kyle Naughton has been a bit overshadowed by fellow full-back Kyle Walker in the past year, but has grown considerably as a player in his spell at Norwich. Although he could have got tighter to Yossi Benayoun for the Israeli star's opener, Naughton turned in an energetic performance that showed his undoubted talents in both attack and defence. Following Benayoun's goal, Naughton nullified the Arsenal man's threat and saw his opponent withdrawn early after an ineffective display. To cap it off, the young full-back got forward well and provided an assist for Wes Hoolahan's first-half goal. Should return to Spurs next season brimming with confidence.
Undoubtedly the defender of the season, Vincent Kompany is on the brink of captaining his side to the Premier League title and put in another top-notch performance as Man City saw off the challenge of Newcastle. Coming into the game, the talk had been of Newcastle striker Papiss Demba Cisse's match-winning display in midweek, but the Belgian defender limited the opportunities for the Toon forward to a solitary second-half header. Team-mate Joleon Lescott, as so often this season, could also have made the Team of the Week, but once more was ever so slightly overshadowed by captain Kompany.
Phil Bardsley is not known as a left-back, but once again put in an admirable display in an unnatural position. With Bardsley, you generally know what you are going to get – a combative display, full of heart and passion. What is not as expected is for the Sunderland man to get himself on the scoresheet, but that is just what he did when coming in onto Ji Dong-Won's lay-off to hammer home an equaliser. He defended throughout with his usual stubbornness and almost added a second goal with a late shot that travelled just wide.
What can you say about Yaya Toure? The man who won Manchester City the FA Cup last season, once more provided Manchester City with the decisive moments that could see them to the Premier League title. Pushed further forward with the second-half introduction of Nigel De Jong, Toure's dynamism and quality was key to the 2-0 win. A placed finish from 25 yards broke the deadlock, before a driving run into box, as City countered in the final minutes, provided a second. The Ivorian is one of the Premier League's leading lights and he saves his very best performances for the biggest stages.
Stephen Ireland was Aston Villa's undisputed Man of the Match as they took on Tottenham at Villa Park on Sunday, providing invaluable help for his defence as Spurs piled on the pressure. Villa scrapped their way to a point against a clearly superior side and it was the Irishman's industry in midfield that epitomised his side's display. In a disappointing season, Ireland's re-emergence as a top Premier League midfielder has been one of the few positives for Alex McLeish to draw upon. The point earned on Sunday has all but secured Villa's Premier League survival and Ireland was key to that achievement.
Martin Jol's decision to move Moussa Dembele into a deeper central-midfield role may have been a masterstroke. The Belgian has had a brilliant second-half of the campaign at the heart of the Fulham side and has given the Cottagers an alternate source of creativity to the ageing Danny Murphy. To cap off a dominant display, the midfielder got himself on the scoresheet with a fine individual run and left-foot finish. Add to that his vision, as well as excellent passing, and it is easy to see how he has become a central figure to this new Fulham side.
Yaya Toure may have put the finishing touches to City's win, but it was the creativity of David Silva that should have meant the game was put to bed much earlier. The Spaniard was at his mercurial best as the league leaders struggled to break down a stubborn Newcastle side and he will be wondering quite how Sergio Aguero in particular did not finish at least one of the opportunities he provided. City may have immense quality in attacking areas, but it is Silva who provides the consistent quality for his team-mates to feed upon.
Bolton welcomed back Korean winger Lee Chung-Yong in the second-half of their 2-2 draw with West Brom, but it was his Bulgarian colleague Martin Petrov who had put the Trotters into a game winning position with a textbook display of traditional wing-play. Petrov may have got himself on the scoresheet from the penalty-spot, but it was his play from the flanks that should have sealed the game. Petrov bombarded the Baggies area with crosses and forced the defensive error for the second goal, but had it not been for his side's wasteful finishing, he could have had a couple more assists to his name.
Djibril Cisse may, just may, have kept QPR in the Premier League. Coming into a team lacking ideas, Cisse's 50th minute introduction changed the game, with the French striker providing the direct attacking threat that a previously insipid Rangers had been lacking. Even before his dramatic 89th minute winner, Cisse had seen a fine header saved by Stoke keeper Thomas Sorensen when he looked certain to put the Rs ahead. With time running out and Bolton winning, it was Cisse's fifth goal in seven appearances that broke the deadlock, with the flamboyant striker once more in the right place at the right time to turn the ball home.
Robin van Persie has carried Arsenal at times this season and should have sent the Gunners to victory once more on Saturday. Two goals late in the second-half looked to have earned his side three points against Norwich, but once more the Dutchman could only look on in horror as the defence shipped a late goal to put their third place claims in jeopardy. A beautiful finish from his now regular link-up with Alex Song brought the Gunners level, before an instinctive finish on his right-foot put the North Londoners ahead. With his future still up in the air, it is clear to all observers just how desperately Arsenal need to retain their Dutch hotshot.
Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini had insisted that this Sunday's encounter with Newcastle was the match that would decide their title hopes. At 0-0 after 70 minutes, the Italian must have been a bit fearful that the chance was going to pass his team by, but he made a match-winning substitution. Bringing on Nigel De Jong is not always the most attacking of decisions, but his introduction allowed Toure to push forward and grab two goals in the last twenty minutes. The Italian doesn't always get his decisions right, but he is always bold and this time, on Sunday, his decision paid-off big time to send City one step closer to the Premier League title.