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Apr 7, 2013

Team of the Week

Tim Krul's return has proved very timely indeed for Newcastle as their season nears its juxtaposed climax - battling for their lives at the foot of the table while attempting to prolong their cosmopolitan Europa League adventure. After a fine display in Lisbon midweek, Krul was unbeatable against Fulham on Sunday, making a flying stop to deny the irrepressible Dimitar Berbatov.

West Ham are edging clear of the intense scrap at the foot of the Premier League table and if Sam Allardyce has any sense he'll be bowing down in front of James Tomkins on Sunday evening. The centre half was superb, starring in his role as Steven Gerrard's nemesis, clearing brilliantly off the line from the Liverpool captain's shot before stopping the 32-year-old as he looked to burst in on goal. Alongside James Collins, Tomkins was excellent.

Doing justice to Matt Lowton's incredible goal for Aston Villa at Stoke is a tall order. Few Premier League players would have had the impudence to try it, let alone pull it off, especially given the parlous state his club were in, but his perfect piece of chest control and exquisite strike of the ball breathed new life into Villa's season. A quite brilliant goal, better than the similar one he scored against Swansea earlier in the season. Oh, and he set up the opening goal too. Not a bad afternoon's work, eh?

David Luiz defended superbly against Sunderland. Yes, you read that right. Deployed in midfield at the start of Rafa Benitez's reign, the Brazilian has been restored to his natural position of late and showed why the club spent so big on him. His forays forward were effective and measured - his shot led to Branislav Ivanovic's winner - and his distribution was precise, showcased by one sumptuous cross-field pass to Juan Mata.

If Everton do manage to nudge themselves into fourth place, it'll have much to do with the late-season form of Phil Jagielka. The England centre half not only got himself on the score sheet at White Hart Lane, clambering above Jan Vertonghen to nod home, but he also made the home side work incredibly hard for their late equaliser, with countless last-ditch blocks and tackles inside his own area.

Newcastle relentlessly pursued Fulham in the second half of their match with Fulham and, as ever, Yohan Cabaye was their fulcrum, bossing the midfield and creating no fewer than six chances in the game. Ironically, the last one he provided, deep in stoppage time, was a poorly hit shot that fell to Papiss Cisse for yet another stoppage-time winner to hand Alan Pardew a vital victory.

Norwich can't quite disentangle themselves from the relegation pack but their vital point against Swansea was snaffled thanks to the tireless work of Elliot Bennett. The midfielder streaked clear down the right and delivered a pinpoint cross that allowed Robert Snodgrass to find the net for Norwich's first, and his clever back-post delivery from a dead-ball situation teed up Michael Turner for the second.

What is it that manifests itself in Tomas Rosicky at this stage of the season? Rarely seen for long periods of this campaign, the Czech midfielder has started just two games in the Premier League and now has two goals to his name. Excellent goals they were, too, as he sneaked into the area to nod Gervinho's cross-cum-shot into the net before powering home at the second attempt after a typical Arsenal breakaway. He also cleared a goal-bound header off his own line too.

Gabriel Agbonlahor has picked a good time to get back to his pacy, dangerous best and it has happily dovetailed with Aston Villa's bounce in form. The striker proved too hot to handle for Stoke's menacing centre-back pairing of Huth and Shawcross, creating a yard of space to convert his opener. His direct running caused panic plenty of times, which also created space for his strike partner Christian Benteke.

No wonder Nigel Adkins splashed £6 million on Jay Rodriguez before Southampton's Premier League season got underway. The former Burnley striker is coming into his own as the campaign progresses and dealt what looks a fatal blow to his former manager's new side on Saturday, showing great determination to beat Adam Federici to Rickie Lambert's pass for his goal, then clipping a delightful ball into the path of Adam Lallana to seal the game, along with Reading's fate.

Unbelievably, Matt Lowton had competition for goal of the weekend from Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy. The former Marseille man looked for a time to have given Harry Redknapp an unlikely lifeline with a finish of sheer brilliance against Wigan, side-footing a thunderbolt into the top corner after letting Stephane Mbia's pass roll across him. He'd already hit the post in the first half and won't be short of suitors in the summer.

Paul Lambert has consistently maintained his young Aston Villa side have enough about them to scrabble out of relegation trouble and three wins in four matches is a pretty good way to go about it. Matt Lowton's brilliant strike set them on their way to a crucial win at Stoke as they became only the third side this season to win at the Britannia Stadium but, in truth, the game should have been over by that point. They are hitting form at just the right time.

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