It wasn’t pretty, but a superb defensive display and last minute header from Isaac Hayden has secured a huge 1-0 win over Chelsea at St James’ Park!
Here’s an assessment of each player’s performance along with our marks out of 10:
Dubravka – 8 – Another top performance from the Slovakian. Didn’t have many big saves to make, but stepped up when he needed to, making one key block with his feet when Kante got in behind in the first half. Also came out claimed several crosses into the box to ease the pressure on his defence.
Krafth– 5 – Struggled and looked pretty unconvincing at both ends if the truth be told. Tried his best, but was regularly beaten by Willian (who he struggled to get close to), lacked composure on the ball and the majority of his crosses into the box were poor. Doesn’t look like a wing-back – which makes you wonder why we signed him. A 5 may seem harsh given we managed a clean sheet, but I thought he looked a little bit out of his depth.
Fernandez – 9 – He’s been slightly below par in recent weeks, but the Argentine was in inspired form tonight. Tried to get us up the pitch and drive us forward from deep (something we’ve rarely seen from him) but also defended admirably, often coming across to help Krafth when he was struggling to cope with Willian.
Lascelles – 9 – A commanding display from the skipper on his return to Bruce’s starting 11 after a a few months out. He stayed tight to Tammy Abraham, won his battles and seemed to clear every single ball that entered Marin Dubravka’s box. No nonsense and solid as a rock.
Clark – 9 – The Irish international has often been seen as our fifth choice centre-back, but I honestly can’t remember the last time he had a bad game. Made a few crucial interceptions to stop Chelsea breakaways, was strong in the tackle and made several key clearances late on.
Willems – N/A – Was withdrawn just 10 minutes in after suffering what looks to be a serious knee injury. A real shame, with fears emerging he could’ve done his cruciate.
Hayden – 7 – Struggled in the first half and wasn’t offering enough, but did a solid job at right wing-back when Sean Longstaff replaced Emil Krafth in the second 45. And then, with seconds remaining, he gambled on a brilliant Saint-Maximin cross and headed home to send St James’ Park wild. Could’ve been a 6 but his late winner means he’s earned a 7!
Shelvey – 6 – Not his best performance today, although he was rarely handed the chance to pull the strings and get into the game given we had just 30% of the ball! Worked hard in front of the back four, but was a little ponderous on the ball at times and passing was mixed. Good to see he’s still putting in a shift off the ball when it’s not quite happening for him on it, however.
Almiron – 8 – His energy levels are absolutely incredible and played a huge part in today’s win. Was not only our biggest outlet on the break or when in possession (with ASM having a quiet game today), but constantly bust a gut to get back and help the struggling Krafth. Had the beating of Azpilicueta and was constantly giving 110% – whether it be to knick the ball back of Chelsea’s defenders or to stop their wingers breaking into the box.
Saint-Maximin – 7 – He was struggling to get into the game for most of it, with marauding Chelsea right-back Reece James often forcing him to drop deep, but it was his moment of quality that helped us take all three point. His cross into Hayden was inch perfect, proving he can still be the difference even when he’s not going on mazy runs and beating players for fun. Great to have him back and good to see him complete the full 90 with no issues.
Joelinton – 7 – The Brazilian has sometimes been criticised by fans for a lack of effort, but he was NOT guilty of that today – far from it. He pressed Chelsea at every opportunity, battled for every ball and won a lot in the air, winning 13 (THIRTEEN) aerial duels – which is as many as the next two players combined! He snatched at one decent chance late on, but was very unlucky not to score early on, seeing a brilliant header smash the cross bar. He fed off scraps, but he never gave up and looked noticeably better after his midweek goal against Rochdale.
Ritchie – 6 – Replaced Willems early on and slotted in a left wing-back for his first Premier League appearance since August. Looked slightly off the pace at times but battled hard in typical Ritchie fashion. Cleared one effort from Tammy Abraham off the line late on.
S Longstaff – 6 – Offered a bit more quality on the ball than Hayden. A steady 20-minute showing.
M Longstaff – N/A – Came on for the final 5 minutes so difficult to give a mark out of 10. Had one nice exchange with Sean and a few nice passes.