A memorable win at St James’ Park, as Miguel Almiron scored his first goal for the club to give us all three points against Crystal Palace.
Here’s an assessment of each player’s performance along with our marks out of 10:
Dubravka – 9 – A top class performance from the Slovakian, with him playing an integral part in yet another big win. Made THREE crucial stops to keep it at 0-0, stopping Zaha in the first half and McCarthur and Benteke with one-on-one saves in the second. Without him, we don’t win today.
Manquillo – 9 – Absolutely outstanding. He was up against one of the Premier League’s most explosive wingers in Wilfred Zaha yet I can’t remember a single time he got past the Spaniard. He was tenacious, often matched him for pace and well and truly won the battle between the two. Also made some good runs forward to give us an outlet down the right. Bruce said he was our best player today and it’s hard to disagree.
Schar – 7 – We saw a few too many wayward long balls at times from him today – and it’s not often we say that – but it was his tempting cross that led to the goal, with Carroll’s eventual knockdown falling to Almiron. Solid defensively and
Fernandez – 7 – Failed to properly clear his lines on more than one occasion in the first half, but the reliable Argentine didn’t do much else wrong from a defensive perspective. Dealt with Benteke’s physical presence well.
Lejeune – 8 – A classy display from the Frenchman, who made it look easy at times considering he’s been out for 7 months! Played the odd loose or risky pass early on but generally gave us that extra bit of composure and quality on the ball and read the game very well.
Dummett – 7 – Had plenty space down our left-hand side in the first-half but struggled to exploit that, with his crosses often failing to find a man in black and white. That said, he was a useful outlet and pressed well early on, even if he did run out of steam in the second half as a result. A little wasteful at times, but another strong defensive performance.
Hayden – 6 – Never really got into the game, with Almiron dropping deep, Shelvey pulling the strings and Schar and Lejeune seeing a lot of the ball instead. He did make some good forward runs down our right-hand side in the first half, but was taken off on the hour-mark after just 21 touches.
Shelvey – 7 – He looked out on his feet for most of the second half, but showed his class in the first 45 in particular with some exquisite touches and first-time passes into space. Despite a sluggish second half, he did plenty good work off the ball too, protecting our defence and putting himself about early on.
Almiron – 9 – It’s easy to get carried away by his goal, but I thought his all round play was much better today, with him looking MUCH more comfortable in the no.10 role. Appeared to be more confident on the ball, was the main man creating – slipping in Hayden with one brilliant pass – and showed superb movement and energy in the middle. His goal was well finished and the celebrations that followed were even better!
Joelinton – 5 – Another very ordinary display, sadly. Had the odd nice touch early on to link up the play, but I’d be clutching at straws to name much else he did. Looks frustrated, severely lacking in confidence and short on quality too. Almiron will have gained a huge boost from today, but it’s another step back for the Brazilian.
Carroll – 7 – He was starved of good service in the final third in the main, but he played a crucial role in our winner, rising highest to knock the ball down for Almiron’s late winner. He didn’t get enough good balls into the box today, yet still managed to register another big assist and lasted the game well. Plenty of battling and pressing in another committed display.
S.Longstaff – 6 – Came on for Hayden on the hour mark. Palace players went past him a little too easy as they pressed for a goal late on, but he used the ball well when he got it and always tried to go forward.
Gayle – N/A – Barely got a kick during the final 15 minutes, but made a few good runs in behind to keep Palace on their toes.
Yedlin – N/A – Came on for the injured Dummett in the closing stages and don’t think he got a touch.