A brilliant way to end the season at St James’ Park today, with two from Ayoze Perez and one from Dwight Gayle sealing a stunning 3-0 win over Chelsea – and a place in the top 10!
After watching the full 90 from the Gallowgate, here’s my thoughts on each player’s performance and my marks out of 10.
NUFC XI – (4-2-3-1): Dubravka – Yedlin, Lascelles, Lejeune, Dummett – Diame, Shelvey – Ritchie, Perez, Murph – Gayle:
Dubravka – 9 – An outstanding display. Made two big saves in the second half to preserve his clean sheet, including one miraculous tip over the bar from Giroud’s clever flick. He didn’t have a great deal to do, but, like any top goalkeeper, he came up trumps and did exactly what’s required when we needed him.
Yedlin – 7 – Hazard wasn’t anywhere near his best, but he worked well with Ritchie to keep him quiet. Sometimes a little wasteful in possession, but a positive and energetic display.
Lascelles – 8.5 – Another commanding performance from the skipper. Strong, no nonsense and stood up to the danger well, just as he has all season – solid as a rock! Another mature display. Surely our player of the season based on his consistency over 2017/18?
Lejeune – 10* – Absolutely superb – his best performance in black and white. He didn’t put a foot wrong. He made several perfectly timed tackles/interceptions, dealt with Giroud expertly, won the vast majority of his aerial duels, played some brilliant passes out of defence and played a big part in our third goal, volleying across goal for Perez to tap in. He’s going from strength to strength and will only get better under Benitez.
Dummett – 7 – No nonsense and committed as ever. Barkley often cut inside which gave Moses a bit of space to bomb forward, but he was wise to the danger more often than not. Didn’t get forward a great deal but another solid defensive display.
Diame – 10 – Once again he was absolutely immense. Cut out danger on several occasions, won his battles both in the air and on the ground, moved the ball quickly and showed some sublime touches too. He got a huge ovation when he was replaced late on and rightly so. Absolutely dominated Chelsea duo Kante and Bakayoko. NUFC’s most improved player of the season signed out in style.
Shelvey – 10 – They gave him too much space to play, but he made the most of it and ran the show for the second time this week. Very few passes misplaced and so much more measured, both in what he did on the ball and off it. As his rating suggests, he didn’t put a foot wrong. Has to be in England’s squad?!
Ritchie –8 – Was at the heart of a lot of our good play in the first half (playing a brilliant ball in behind for Murphy in the build up to Gayle’s goal) and was bright and a bundle of energy throughout. Put several good balls into the box and was persistent both on and off the ball.
Perez –10 – Brilliant. He’s had his critics but he’s come alive over the past few months. Was the constant link between midfield and attack and was alert in the box on two occasions to score his 9th and 10th goals of the season. Looked full of confidence and rightly so, ending the season as our top scorer.
Murphy – 7.5 – A positive display from the summer signing which was great to see after some ineffective and nervy performances of late. He worked his socks off, had a go at them with some direct running and made some good runs in behind too (which helped set up Gayle’s goal). Should do his fragile confidence the world of good.
Gayle – 7 – Hobbled off early on in the second half, but played a big part in the first. Got himself in the right place at the right time to nod in our opener and was full of energy to unsettle the Chelsea defence. Some indecision on the ball and slack passes let him down at times, but it was great to see him finally get back on the scoresheet.
Joselu – Looked a little sluggish up top and slow to react, but won a few flick ons and linked the play from time to time. Could’ve scored.
Hayden – Did a good job when he came on, giving us some energy down our right just as Ritchie was starting to tire.
Haidara – Wasn’t on long enough to make any sort of impression, but nice to see Rafa give him one final run out before he’s released.